Hospitality veteran Mark Sleigh will lead the campaign to reinvent Wollongong as a major lifestyle, tourism and events destination.
The 38-year-old father of four began work yesterday as Destination Wollongong’s new general manager.
The appointment came 16 years after Wollongong-born Mr Sleigh left the region to begin a career in Sydney.
He flagged plans to capitalise on Wollongong’s close proximity to Sydney and to make use of its coastline - ‘‘the most beautiful in the world’’.
‘‘Tourism Australia and Destination NSW spend a lot of their budget bringing people to Sydney and one of the real strengths of Wollongong is our proximity to Sydney and being able to tap into those people,’’ said Mr Sleigh, now of Blackbutt.
‘‘I think there’s a big opportunity to interact with the transport companies and the accommodation providers out of Sydney and ... influence where [visitors to Sydney] travel.’’
Mr Sleigh has been general manager of four major Sydney hotels and chief operating officer of Base Tourism Group, which runs 13 hotels and 31 retail travel agencies.
He held a management role with the Eastern Hotels Group during the Sydney 2000 Olympics and said the experience had shown him the power of major events to benefit a city and its people.
Operating under a recently revised charter and part-funded by Wollongong City Council, Destination Wollongong works on tourism, events and bringing new commerce into the city centre.