Community group revitalises famous opal town

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By Melissa Keogh

A Coober Pedy community group is on a mission to boost tourism in the famous outback opal town by overhauling its marketing materials and revitalising one of the town’s major events.

The Coober Pedy Retail, Business and Tourism Association (CPRBTA) has updated and revised the town’s main tourism website with a new look, logo and slogan ‘Get Outback, Get Underground!’

The volunteer group also pushed for a revitalisation of the town’s major event, the Coober Pedy Opal Festival, which was a “resounding success” with dates shifted from the usual Easter weekend to June.

The festival’s duration was also extended to three days and coincided with other events in the town.

This year’s Coober Pedy Opal Festival attracted about 2000 people, up from its usual 1000. A street parade was a highlight of the event.

Coober Pedy, which mines 70% of the world’s opals, also recently welcomed its own version of the Hollywood sign, made from 3m-high corrugated iron letters crafted by Wayne Borrett.

The improvements to the town’s existing branding came about through a Strategic Marketing Plan funded by a $46,000 grant from the Federal Government’s Building Better Regions Fund (BBRF).

Motel owner Deb Clee, who is also CPRBTA treasurer, says the new website, which has also been adopted by the district council as the premier tourism site, is receiving up to 3500 page views a week.

She says website hits were not recorded previously with the old site but she estimated they only reached 1000 per week.

The new logo and slogan reflect’s Coober Pedy’s famous sunsets and opals.

By the end of 2018, Coober Pedy is expected to be celebrating an addition to the Big Winch Scenic Lookout precinct – a 360-degree drop down cinema screening the town’s history and opal mining.

The CPRBTA was more recently awarded $21,500 from round two of the BBRF towards costs of upgrading and installing ‘Welcome to Coober Pedy’ signage at the town entrances.

The rebranding of the town comes as underground Comfort Inn Coober Pedy Experience Motel reports its most successful July in almost a decade.

Deb says the last time business was this good was in 2010, when Lake Eyre was flooded.

“Everybody in town is saying the same thing … it could have something to do with the luring closure of Uluru to climbers in 2020,” she says.

Inside the Soft Rock Café at the Comfort Inn Coober Pedy Experience Motel.

Coober Pedy has a population of more than 1700 people.

In four years to 2016, about 103,000 international and domestic overnight visitors came to Coober Pedy, according to Tourism Research Australia’s latest Local Government Area profile.

Together, the two groups poured about $31m into the local economy.

While Coober Pedy is mainly fuelled on the tourism industry and opal mining, Deb says the town is sometimes seen as a stopover destination.

However, things are changing, she says.

Photo by Kezia Manning.

“It used to be a stopover town, but we are changing that,” says Deb, whose family has lived in Coober Pedy since 1985.

“We’re seeing the (overnight) stays are getting longer and all these advantages that we’re creating in the town are giving people a reason to stay longer.”

Deb says business confidence in Coober Pedy is at a high but the CPRBTA still wants visitors to extend their stay and “experience everything we have to offer”.

“We have history tours, noodling areas, underground churches, underground mine museum, The Breakaways, and the Dingo fence – the world’s longest fence,” she says.

“There is so much to do.”

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