Bells Beach Myth – BUS – ters
3 April 2012
Since the debate over commercial tour operators went public, serious misinterpretations and misrepresentations of the aims of the Bells Beach Preservation Society (and other community groups) have surfaced.
In an effort to set the record straight we would like to bust the following myths about commercial tour operators in the Bells reserve:
- Myth 1: the people voicing their opposition to commercial tour operators are just a fringe element.
Every community group with an interest in the Bells Beach reserve has embraced a policy of ‘no buses at Bells’. From the Torquay Boardriders, SANE, and the Surfrider Foundation to local business groups, all are unanimous that Bells must not be changed to accommodate commercial tour operators.
- Myth 2: Commercial tour operators are providing a service for thousands of tourists that want to specifically visit Bells Beach.
The reality is that tourists visiting Bells as part of the commercial tour groups don’t specifically want to visit Bells. They are only interested in the Great Ocean Road, The 12 Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge and the eye candy down towards Port Campbell. Bells is just a little added extra for the tour companies to throw in. The tour companies don’t even really care that much, they are just worried that one operator may gain an advantage over others by offering a Bells tour where the others can’t
As much as we love Bells, to the commercial tour operators Bells is a coffee break before heading down the coast. We would rather have tourists at Bells who can appreciate the reserve for what it is and are prepared to take the time to make a specific visit, which brings us to the next point:
- Myth 3: BBPS and other community groups want to keep tourists out of Bells and save it all for themselves.
The BBPS are all about keeping Bells accessible to people that have a genuine interest in the reserve. That is, tourists who want to come in and hang around for a while, those who can enjoy the reserve for what it is, maybe watch the surfers, use the walking tracks or even go for a surf. The fact is that by accommodating commercial tour traffic, these genuine Bells tourists are being discouraged and shortchanged.
What we are saying is that we actually want people to come and visit Bells, go for a surf and appreciate it for the same reasons we do. Effectively, we are lobbying for the exact opposite of keeping Bells to ourselves. We believe that people without access to their own transport should still be able to visit Bells as part of regulated groups coordinated by the Surfworld museum.
As for sabotaging the local tourism industry and being automatically opposed to anyone making a dollar:
- Myth 4: Commercial tour operators generate income for the surf coast region.
At present, the commercial tour operators generate negative income for the Torquay / Bells region. They actually cost money to be there. The big dollar generators are the drive through tourists and people who hang around town. Its so obvious it hardly bears repeating. If our stance was anti-income then why would it be supported by the main Torquay business groups?
- Myth 5: Bells will still be the same, buses or no buses.
Granting commercial tour operators access to the Bells reserve has already resulted in major changes to the car parks. The work that has already been done is repugnant on an aesthetic level and on a practical level, but that won’t be the end of it. The Surf Coast Shire has plans that include the construction of a bus hub in the Winkipop car park. They can call it what they like – it may be referred to as an amenities block, a visitor’s centre or one of a hundred different weasel words – but make no mistake it is there for the commercial operators.
It has been said elsewhere on this site but it is worth repeating:
The shire are using the commercial tour traffic as an excuse to enable development within the Bells reserve. If we keep the tour operators out of the reserve, the problem goes away.
- Myth 6: The Bells reserve is just the same as any other beach along the coast and therefore should be open for exploitation by the tourism industry.
Well is it?