The job title seems a misnomer; executive officer of Fleurieu Peninsula Tourism. It suggests the leader of a team, but Miranda Lang (pictured right) is it. But it is a winning team, and a remarkable one at that.
From a one-room office in Victor Harbor she serves the four councils on the Fleurieu Peninsula – Alexandrina, Onkaparinga, Victor Harbor and Yankalilla – spanning 2907.6 km2 the best way she can, and plots how to expose the region to the world.
And now, with the state government, through the South Australian Tourism Commission, demanding greater than ever emphasis on regional tourism to be orchestrated by the respective councils – probably without giving them additional funds – Miranda’s job has just got tougher.
If those on the proverbial mound weren’t shouting aimlessly enough calling for our Miranda to be given support, they certainly are now. Yet, all the results say she is doing just fine, thank you.
Excluding the city of Adelaide as a region, the Fleurieu Peninsula is clearly South Australia’s No.1 tourist destination.
The latest figures will be released this month, but in 2013-14 our region attracted more than 3 million visitors – almost three times the next best, the Limestone Coast. In terms of expenditure, the Fleurieu was again the best country region bringing in $435 million.
South Australia is no longer the industrial state, but the potential to become a bigger tourism destination is real with the Fleurieu Peninsula being called upon to play a huge role.
“People say it’s terrible that I don’t have help, but no it’s not,” Miranda said. “I just accepted that I needed to work differently. I asked myself, how do I work smarter with less? That’s a great challenge, but I can do that; it’s not a big deal.
“I just see the potential for everything that we have got. I am an optimist. I have an organised ‘to do list’ and I just get on with it. If I ever feel overwhelmed I just look at where I can get some wins on the board or look at some results that make me feel good. Never for a moment do I feel that something is getting me nowhere. I choose my battles. I have my frustrating moments, but I deal them them.”
It is Miranda’s choice to work smarter by better understanding her role and making the absolute most of every opportunity that has taken the Fleurieu Peninsula top, but hidden in the background are those who believe she should be fighting their cause in the trenches.
However, her job, in essence, is not about selling someone’s tourism gig, but promoting and marketing the overall destination.
Miranda recently started even earlier in the office when she identified an opportunity to promote the Fleurieu Peninsula across the United States of America and beyond.
“They were doing this whole itinerary building program in the US for destinations and distributing them through organisations like National Geographic; it was huge,” Miranda explained. “If I can tap into anything that is going to get exposure in the US I’ll put in the work, especially when it’s free publicity like this was.”
And so the process of selling us began. “They were not asking for money, but content,” Miranda said. “Something like this helps our profile internationally.”
Within minutes, Miranda was into the system, and offered the program different types of itineraries. “I focused on themes and experiences so we were seen as not one specific region. It’s always about family fun. All of our regions have some of that element, so we went further by saying there were other reasons why people should consider the Fleurieu Peninsula if they were looking for a family vacation… they need this information.”
Within hours, millions of Americans were reading about the Fleurieu Peninsula, just like they did a few weeks earlier when Miranda somehow grabbed good space in the Los Angeles Times. It was another big spiel, like gold, something that all the money some people were saying the SATC should give our region couldn’t buy.
The LA story went viral; priceless in this world of media competition; it was amazing stuff.
“A lot of people picked up on it,” Miranda said. “Something like this just does not happen. This is my job. It’s about making sure we are playing in the space of the interstate and international markets.
“If the SATC is focusing on the Barossa Valley or Kangaroo Island internationally that’s fine, because when it is about the Barossa it’s about food and wine so I say Barossa is great, but we’ve not only got fantastic food and wine but a lot more like amazing beaches, the Murray Mouth and the Coorong. We are more than than what the Barossa can offer.
“We spin it so that we are not competing or putting down another area – it is all good for South Australia – we are just feeding off that brand.
“We say, why not consider the Fleurieu. And we’ve got more kangaroos alive here than Kangaroo Island… we try to do different things.
“The state government is saying we need to look more seriously at tourism, and personally I agree. It has always been a fun portfolio; it’s one that’s never really had it’s own category in terms of industry and the input it can have on the greater economy. Now it is.
“Under that portfolio you have food and wine that sits nicely with tourism. You have accommodation and other businesses that benefit from the dollars of others. There is a bigger picture for all, but if we want to be in that space we all need to sing from the same hymn book.
“If people see that their community leaders have identified a plan on moving forward on embracing tourism, or acknowledging this is actually going to happen, this region will go even further.
“With tourism, we are going to have families relocating… they feel there is going to be a future here. Tourism will create that future, and that is what the broader community needs to understand.
“Nobody wants to have the environment compromised; nobody wants to have sharks so the marine life is again in jeopardy. But if you can get tourism right, that flow-on effect to your local butcher, your health care worker, especially in a place like Victor Harbor, is really going to benefit everyone. I think councils are starting to see that.”
According to Miranda, most business people, especially tourist operators, believe the answer to all ills is simply getting more money, and part of her role is to explain that everyone is short of cash including governments.
“The reality is that times have changed,” Miranda said. “We need to recognise things aren’t like they used to be 20 years ago when we would get hundreds of thousands of dollars, a full-on office; it doesn’t work like that now.
“There is no money in this state so the quicker people think, well, okay, how do we do this differently, the better.
“It is about doing things smarter with less resources. I don’t need to know every little detail of your shop or business of what you are doing; my job is about driving demand.
“When the state is doing different campaigns or activities I leverage anything that I can of that if it is going to benefit the region. It’s what I do.”
Miranda was raised in Banff in the province of Alberta, Canada, a resort town beneath the peaks of the Rocky Mountains. There are grizzly bears in the woods, but she was never confronted by one. The bears were probably lucky because Miranda has never been scared of a challenge since she came here seven years ago and married Graham, a South Australian, with whom she is raising a teenage boy and girl.
The background tell us she has experienced another beautiful tourism destination, only this time she is telling the whole world about her Fleurieu Peninsula. This is what this team of one does. Love your work, Miranda.