CHANGING visitor needs, efficiency opportunities and technological advancements are among the issues to be explored as South Gippsland Shire Council reviews its Visitor Information Service (VIS) over the next few months.
The review will aim to determine the future role and function of South Gippsland’s VIS to ensure it remains relevant and valuable to visitors and the tourism industry while delivering value to ratepayers.
Manager Economic Development, Tourism & Customer Services, Danny McDonald, said Council is preparing to engage with a broad range of stakeholders, including local tourism groups and businesses, over the coming months to seek input and feedback.
“While we recognise the importance of the traditional visitor information centre model in our community, we are also aware that consumer preferences are changing quickly with technology and therefore our service model needs to be reviewed for currency.
“The review will help to identify opportunities that we can take advantage of to benefit both users and local tourism operators, and to ensure the service is not left behind,” Mr McDonald explained.
South Gippsland’s accredited Visitor Information Centres (VICs) at Foster and Korumburra are staffed by a mixture of council staff and enthusiastic volunteers. Many visitors use them to access local information from knowledgeable staff. The data for 2014/15 shows there were more than 19,000 visitors (‘walk-ins’) to the centres that year, with 13,107 at Foster and 6,110 at Korumburra.
The review will look at the service these centres provide and also the online accommodation booking service Council provides, which generates some income. However, accommodation bookings through South Gippsland’s visitor information service have declined over the past three years.
Research indicates that visitor information services can increase visitors’ length of stay, spend and activities. It also indicates that more people are using the internet—particularly on mobile devices—for holiday planning and bookings. The increased uptake of online travel review sites such as Trip Advisor influences the way visitors access information.
Fast Facts from the council website:
Approximately one million visitors come to South Gippsland each year, bringing about $123 million into the local economy.
Visitors spend an average of:
- Day visitor= $56
- Domestic overnight= $100
- International overnight= $112
Visitors spend an average of three nights in South Gippsland.
Peak visitation in South Gippsland is November to April.
In the off-peak months, visitation can drop by up to 75%
The combined operating cost to Council of South Gippsland’s visitor information services is around $300K per annum. This is consistent with other VICs across Australia.
Mr McDonald said that each year Council reviews a number of services it provides to the community to ensure that those services are delivered as efficiently and effectively as possible. “Given the changes that have occurred in the tourism service industry in recent years, it is timely for us to undertake this review.”
Mr McDonald stressed that Council has not formed an opinion as to whether or not any changes are needed, but is keeping an open mind, keen to hear what visitors and residents have to say.
Visitors and residents are encouraged to have their say on the future look of Council’s VIS by completing a survey available either online at Council’s website or in hardcopy at Council’s Leongatha offices, local libraries and Visitor Information Service centres.
It is expected Council will receive a report based on the findings of the review – including the community consultation – towards the middle of this year.