THE man behind the "We Love the Gong" campaign, Greg Binskin, is signing off.
After nearly 12 years at the helm of Tourism Wollongong (now Destination Wollongong), the organisation's general manager said it was time to put the focus on his family.
Under Mr Binskin's watch, the region has become a major tourism destination, with campaigns like We Love the Gong and the Grand Pacific Drive initiative prompting an influx of tourists to the city and surrounds.
There have been challenges too - such as the controversial Southern Gateway Centre at Bulli Tops, which opened in 2009 at a cost of $11 million and which still struggles to get visitors.
However, plans for that centre were in place before Mr Binskin came to the role and he said he enjoyed working to overcome the challenges thrown his way.
"But my priority now is my young family, so I'm signing off to let the board find another passionate person with energy who will take the city into the next decade," he said.
"I came into the role when tourism was in its infancy here and it was a great opportunity for me to take on the challenge and build tourism for NSW's third largest city.
"When I came there were two major hotels - now we have seven new hotels, more cafes and eateries along the foreshore and in the city centre, and we have reinvested in our tourism assets like Symbio Wildlife Park, Jamberoo Action Park and Skydive the Beach, to name a few."
Destination Wollongong chairman Matt Davidson said tourism numbers - and dollars - had risen markedly under his leadership.
"Today the visitor economy is worth $687 million, which means visitors to this region are spending $1.9 million every day on average.
"In 2006, that figure was $470 million - so that's more than a $200 million increase in the past six years alone."
New figures, ending March 2012, show domestic overnight visitors are up 12.7 per cent on the previous 12 months to 967,000. That compares to 807,000 domestic overnight visitors in the year to March 2006.
"Greg has been a hands-on leader for a fairly small team that have achieved enormous things on limited resources," Mr Davidson said.
"He is inspiring, passionate and committed, and he works exceptionally hard."
Mr Binskin was the winner of the NSW Tourism Award for Excellence in 2007 for outstanding contribution to regional tourism by an individual, while the marketing campaigns he led have received awards and accolades.
He will leave the organisation at the end of September, but not the region.
"I'm looking forward to playing tourist in my own backyard and enjoying all the attractions I've been marketing to others for so many years," he said.