A new federal government program designed to assist regional tourism businesses upgrade their accommodation and build new attractions has been welcomed by operators.
The $48.5 million Tourism Industry Regional Development Fund will see grants from $50,000 to $250,000 offered on a matched dollar-for-dollar basis for projects "which improve or refurbish existing products or services or offer innovative new experiences".
Chair of South Coast Regional Tourism Organisation Brian Longbottom, who is also chair of Kiama Tourism, said the fund was great news for the region's tourism industry.
The tourism industry brings in $2 billion per annum in direct expenditure to the South Coast and provides jobs for more than 20,000 people between Helensburgh and Eden.
Mr Longbottom said with grants starting at $50,000, the fund would provide an incentive for operators to invest.
"Funding of this kind is fabulous ... a $50,000 start is a significant amount in a regional area," Mr Longbottom said.
Mr Longbottom said the new fund would be on the agenda when the tourism organisation's board meets today.
"We know that funding of this kind they will have some fairly significant criteria attached ... we will be asking for some further details so we can understand exactly what they are looking for," he said.
Cunningham MP Sharon Bird said the new fund would help to bring thousands more visitors to the region each year.
Throsby MP Stephen Jones said that the program will help boost innovation and quality in the local tourism industry.
"This fund is about matching the beauty of our region with our tourism facilities," Mr Jones said.
"A major focus of this program will be on improving the quality of accommodation and attractions in regional areas like the Illawarra so that the tourism facilities match the beauty of Australia's regions."
Applications to the program close on December 14, with successful applicants expected to be announced in March 2013.