THE appeal and attraction of the Great Southern Rail Trail took a giant leap towards being acknowledged by a far greater audience following the recent unveiling of the draft marketing and promotion plan.
Public interest was gauged and ideas put forward on how best to market the GSRT during forums held in April and June and via an online survey – all of which assisted Steve Jones and Tim Bracher of Melbourne-based brand identity firm Heine Jones in developing the outcomes.
Heine Jones, the company which was awarded the contract early this year as part of the GSRT Extension Project funding, has been working closely over the last eight months with the Great Southern Rail Trail (GSRT) Committee of Management and South Gippsland Shire Council to develop a suitable marketing strategy.
The outcome of this is the GSRT Integrated Marketing Strategy which was presented at public information sessions held at Port Welshpool and Foster last Wednesday, during which the consultants explained the brief they were given, the goals they have been working towards, recommendations for further development of infrastructure recommended methods of getting the message out to the rest of Australia, and overseas, that the GSRT has much to commend it and should rate highly amongst the best trails of its type in Victoria.
With the Toora to Welshpool stage of the Trail nearing completion and funding secured for repairs and development of the Black Spur section, it appears that it is ‘all systems go’ for the GSRT.
Council’s tourism development officer, Danielle Todaro, said that the recent announcement of the Black Spur funding via the Regional Development Grant is timely as the development and marketing will be for the full length of the Great Southern Rail Trail.
“We are hopeful that the Toora to Welshpool section will be completed in the next few months. Tenders have already been advertised for the repair of the Black Spur bridges, so after many years the completion of this incredible tourism asset is well on the radar.
The addition of the proposed signage and infrastructure, supported by a strong marketing strategy, will provide exciting economic stimuli for South Gippsland,” Ms Todaro explained.
“There needn’t be a beginning or an end to the Great Southern Rail Trail,” said Mr Jones.
“The aim is for it to be a multi-directional trail, which can be accessed from Leongatha or Port Welshpool, and at various points along it,” said Mr Jones.
Both Mr Bracher and Mr Jones are familiar with the beauty and appeal of South Gippsland and recommend that there are distinct groups to whom the marketing should be directed.
“There are over 2000 cycling trails in Victoria, and while many of them are attractive, the Great Southern Rail Trail is amongst those which have the ‘wow’ factor,’ Mr Bracher said.
During their research, Mr Bracher and Mr Jones have discovered that there is an enormous number of cycle clubs and individual recreational cycling enthusiasts in the Melbourne metropolitan area who are always keen to try new trails in areas as yet unexplored by their numbers.
As these adventurous cyclists will most likely want to experience the entire trail along with the towns along the way, the opportunity is there to increase the duration of their visit by offering the whole ‘experience,’ – accommodation, food, wine, entertainment – and in doing so, boost the economy. It is just a matter of raising awareness and the profile of the GSRT with marketing, following the upgrading and development of infrastructure along the trail, and getting tourism-based businesses on board to help spread the word, they believe, is the key to getting this message across.
Holiday makers are, of course, an obvious group of possible trail users.
“With a great location such as this, with such close proximity to Wilsons Promontory, there is a ready-made group of people who are likely to visit the trail in sections – perhaps on non-beach days. We need to promote the trail as a source of recreation, and as a means to reaching the townships along it which offer much, such as art galleries, shops, wineries, restaurants and cafés, raising the awareness that each town along the trail has its own personality, its own charm and sense of community, and that there is something for all members of the family to enjoy along the trail,” said Mr Bracher.
Walkers and horseriders also constitute groups of trail users and with further infrastructure undertaken, will also add to the appeal of the trail to these users. Included in the recommendations are the installation of attractive seating at various points along the trail, cycle racks, additional amenities, signage which indicates distances to towns and the facilities to be found there.
Website marking, brochures and pocket sized mini-books are also under development, with feature ranging from descriptions of the trail and towns along it, developed mapping of sections of the trail complete with gradient and distances, transport links, section maps, safety regulations, methods of reaching the trail, along with accommodation and dining options listed.
With these recommendations now released, Council plans to work together with the Committee of Management and Heine Jones in further developing these concepts, with the priorities being signage, infrastructure and a fully developed marking plan. Once fully designed, costings can be done which will help to determine the funding required and the time-frame involved seeing the project come to fruition.
The Great Southern Rail Trail Committee is looking for interested people from Leongatha to Port Welshpool and surrounds to be a Friend of the GSRT.
Be a part of something that connects the people, the communities and visitors to South Gippsland. You can become a Friend of the GSRT by visiting www. surveymonkey.com/s/XP8ZLGG or by contacting Dana Hughes on 5662 9384.