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Jun 12, 2017

Q and A: Simon Latchford from Visit Sunshine Coast

The CEO and Head of Marketing and Strategic Partnerships at Visit Sunshine Coast talks about making a positive difference to his community, the geographical wonders of the Sunshine Coast and sets us an ambitious itinerary for 24 hours on the Sunshine Coast.

What do you do at Visit Sunshine Coast?

I'm the Chief Executive Officer. I'm responsible for the strategic, financial and operational management of the organisation and directly responsible to the Chairman and Board of Directors. I take the lead role in driving key marketing strategies in support of the development of a strong regional brand, quantifiable by an increase in visitation and visitor spend for Sunshine Coast tourism operators. I'm also responsible for the acquisition and management of strategic partnerships.

Give us a little peek at your career background before your current role at Visit Sunshine Coast.

I have a strong background in tourism management, industry development, aviation, marketing, branding, events and special high profile projects. I have held senior positions in the marketing and strategic development of leading destinations such as the Whitsundays, regional Victoria and formerly as the Group Marketing and Destination Development Manager for Margaret River Tourism in Western Australia.

What's your favourite thing about your job?

Making a positive difference to the community in which I live.

How would your friends and colleagues describe you?

Reliable, resourceful and brave, as I am not afraid of taking risks and I will never die wondering "what if?".

What is something few people know about the Sunshine Coast?

The depth and breadth of extraordinary experiences from Hinterland to Coastal that are located within a relatively small geographic area with an airport in the middle and very accessible from major cities. The challenge and opportunity is for us to make people aware.

What makes the Sunshine Coast unique as a destination?

Not only is the Sunshine Coast home to one of the country's best attractions, Australia Zoo, but it is also the gateway to World Heritage-listed Fraser Island. Our branding is naturally refreshing and our region has it in spades. There is the ancient volcanic peaks of the Glass House Mountains and the Noosa Everglades - one of only two Everglade systems in the world. I have one of the best jobs in the world promoting a simply stunning destination with over 100 kilometres of pristine beaches, over 60 national and conservation parks and almost half of Australia's bird species. Anyway, you get the picture.

Give us your ultimate itinerary for 24 hours on the Sunshine Coast.

I'm not sure if you can fit it all into 24 hours but my top highlights include a visit to Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve and the new Discovery Centre (one of the best spots on the Coast to view the majestic Glass House Mountains), a meander through the scenic Hinterland villages of Maleny, Montville and Palmwoods, a visit to the colourful Eumundi Markets, a meal at the iconic Spirit House, sampling some fresh seafood ideally straight off the trawler in Mooloolaba and, lastly, a visit to stunning Noosa.

What can the Sunshine Coast offer events that a capital city can't?

Natural spaces and fresh air that tell an authentic story. The Sunshine Coast can offer the same level of service and innovation as a capital city, but with the added benefits of our breath-taking landscapes and rich experiences that cannot be found in metro locations.

Why are events important to destinations?

Economically they drive visitors to a region where they might not otherwise have visited. Events can raise the profile of a region and in terms of business events they can provide a higher yielding customer and fill mid-week and quieter periods. As hosting the Australian Event Awards in 2016 proved, the Sunshine Coast is capable of hosting a significant event that would otherwise not be held in a regional location.

What's your favourite Australian event and why?

The Melbourne Food & Wine Festival because it is more than just one event and serves to showcase and celebrate an incredible abundance of food and wine experiences which in some way, shape and form contributes to tourism year-round and beyond the event.

Visit Sunshine Coast has its name on Best Tourism Event at the Australian Event Awards. From a destination perspective, makes a great tourism event?

One that is successful measured by positive experiences, showcases the best of a destination and contributes to a flow on effect from publicity, return visitation and ultimately becomes a 'must do'.