The Yarrawonga Mulwala Visitor Information Centre will be the only accredited service centre in the shire under a draft Moira Shire Council plan.
While the Yarrawonga centre will keep its accreditation status and use of the recognisable yellow ‘i’ readily associated with visitor information, the Cobram, Barmah and Numurkah centres will lose their accreditation.
Under the draft strategy, the Barmah Forest Heritage and Education Centre in Nathalia will be operated as a non-accredited Visitor Information Centre (VIC) and there is no recommendation included in the plan for the future of the visitor information centres in Cobram and Numurkah.
The 2017-2019 Moira Shire Visitor Services Strategy seeks to “play a major role in ensuring that Moira Shire adapts to consumer trends and continue to deliver best practice visitor services in an efficient manner reaching more visitors”.
Developed with input from the Moira Shire Tourism Advisory Committee, council’s economic development staff and volunteers, the strategy delivers several recommendations for the future of visitor information services.
The first recommendation is to retain the accreditation status of the Yarrawonga Mulwala Visitor Information Centre.
“It is great for our centre that the accreditation will be kept,” said Yarrawonga Mulwala Visitor Information Centre Executive Officer Noel Wright.
“Essentially that means we continue to operate the centre as we are now, from 9am to 5pm every day except Good Friday and Christmas Day.
“Services here won’t change so our staff and volunteers can continue to provide the great service that they do to visitors to Yarrawonga and Mulwala.”
The draft strategy says “it is important to Moira Shire Council to retain one accredited VIC to ensure that the tourism sector in Moira Shire still has access to the benefits of accreditation, including the use of the yellow ‘i’ and promotion of our destination in other accredited VICs across the nation”.
“Yarrawonga Mulwala is recognised as a primary destination of the Murray Region and is a major tourism destination within Moira Shire.”
The strategy says council will continue to outsource the delivery of accredited Visitor Information Services in Yarrawonga to Yarrawonga Mulwala Tourism as it has done for the past three years.
The second recommendation in the draft strategy is to have the Barmah Forest Heritage and Education Centre operate as a second, non-accredited, Visitor Information Centre.
This enables “more flexible hours that can be adapted by demand” according to the draft strategy.
Recommendation three calls for the development of a mobile, pop-up Visitor Information Centre which can be stand, van or caravan transported to an event or key attraction.
Further recommendations suggest delivering a Visiting Friends and Relatives Campaign featuring local tourism businesses and targeting local residents to be ambassadors for their own region and accrediting businesses as Visitor Information Points (VIPs) with brochure displays and ongoing visitor information training.
Mr Wright said face-to-face visitor information services played a vital role in local tourism.
“Sure people can access some information online but a lot still enjoy the opportunity to speak to someone face-to-face, particularly someone with first-hand local knowledge,” he said.
“They want positive information and we all know that information online isn’t always positive and it isn’t always genuine.
“Here at the centre people can ask for information based on their budget, their likes and interests, and anything else without having to go to multiple sites online and search for hours.”
Mr Wright said the Yarrawonga Mulwala Visitor Information Centre continued to evolve, benefitting from the partnership with the Lake Deck Café, and exploring options for further inclusions in the future.
“We’d like to be able to form a partnership with Goulburn Murray Water and the Murray Darling Basin Authority to provide interactive displays detailing the story of Lake Mulwala and the irrigation system as a whole,” he said.
“The whole idea is to make the centre a place where people can come in, spend some time, get good information and enjoy their experience.”
The 2017-2019 Moira Shire Visitor Services Strategy is open to public feedback until Tuesday, August 1.
Tourism by the numbers
More than 925,000 people visited the Sun Country on the Murray region (including Moira Shire, Berrigan Shire and parts of Federation Council) from March 2016 to March 2017.
In the same period the region experienced growth in domestic overnight travel with 544,000 people spending 1.8 million nights, according to information from Tourism Research Australia
Domestic overnight visitors spent $321 million in the region and listed ‘holiday’ as the main purpose of travel (55.4%) followed by visiting friends and relatives (32.9%).
According to the 2017-2019 Moira Shire Visitor Services Strategy, tourism delivers an estimated economic output of more than $101 million, which is the equivalent of 3.7% of Moira Shire’s total economic output of $2.7 billion.
Tourism provides 569 jobs in the region, 6.2% of the overall employment in Moira Shire.