Tourism Whitsundays makes key hire following funding win

Tourism Whitsundays has welcomed a new addition to its team via a federal government funding grant to drive proactive business opportunities for the region’s tourism industry.

Respected brand and product development leader Nicole Riksman has commenced in the role of industry development manager for the Whitsundays – a position made possible through the government’s Recovery for Regional Tourism Fund.

Funding of $3 million was secured by Tourism Whitsundays to deliver a range of regional initiatives, including a Whitsundays product and industry development project, with the appointment of Riksman a critical step in driving this initiative.

With over 12 years of Aussie travel industry experience, Riksman has held a range of senior roles for brands such as Student Flights, Escape Travel and Flight Centre.

Riksman will be based in the Whitsundays for the 12-month contract role, and will be accessible to tourism businesses in the region for support in nurturing their products and experiences.

Tash Wheeler, CEO of Tourism Whitsundays, said Riksman will be central to the organisation’s tourism recovery strategy and will focus on supporting local operators.

“We’re thrilled to have Nicole on board to assist us in encouraging and facilitating experience-based opportunities for the region, developing tourism products and identifying investment prospects to benefit the industry,” she said.

“We recently completed a comprehensive analysis of the current tourism experiences on offer in the Whitsundays region, highlighting gaps and areas of potential development, and Nicole’s key focus will be to drive outcomes from this work in partnership with our industry.

“The overarching mission of this important role is to retain and create jobs by driving visitation growth, boosting consumer demand and improving product diversity to better leverage the domestic tourism market. Nicole’s knowledge and expertise will be invaluable in achieving these goals.”

Wheeler said this balance was critical to ensuring current and future prosperity for the region.

“In addition to nurturing experiences suited to Australian travellers, Nicole will be working closely with our marketing and trade teams to ensure there is a vibrant, inbound tourism offering in place, ready for when international visitors return to Australia and the beautiful Whitsundays region,” she said.

Commenting on her appointment, Riksman said: “I’m really looking forward to meeting with operators from across the Whitsundays region to better understand their diverse challenges and supporting them to navigate through these challenges to areas of opportunity.

“The impacts of the past 18 months on travel and tourism have been significant, particularly in regions such as ours that had such a reliance on international visitation.

“I’ll be working hand-in-hand with industry to ensure we can harness the current domestic travel market but also maintain a longer-term international preparedness.”