Burra rallies to save info centre

THE Korumburra community and South Gippsland tourism’s industry have opposed a proposal to close Korumburra’s visitor information centre.

A recommendation to tomorrow’s (Wednesday) meeting of South Gippsland Shire Council recommends the closure of the centre, in the entry foyer of Coal Creek Community Park and Museum, despite Korumburra being the first town visitors from Melbourne arrive at in the shire.

Councillors will vote to decide the centre’s fate, when they consider the final report of the Visitor Information Services Review 2016-17.

The recommendation is to close the Korumburra centre by July 31 this year and continue to operate the visitor information centre at Foster’s Stockyard Gallery. The recommendation will result in the loss of jobs and volunteer roles at Korumburra.

The report also recommends council allocate $100,000 to develop a digital tourism strategy “which targets service and growth of South Gippsland’s visitor economy” by improving the Visit Prom Country website, particularly for mobile usability.

Operating costs, declining use and the rise of the internet in planning and booking holidays have contributed to the review’s recommendation.

The news has devastated the Korumburra Business Association, which advocated for the centre to stay.

President Noelene Cosson said, “We strongly believe that South Gippsland cannot afford to close an information centre before they have adequate digital presence available.

“The proposal states they will put the $100,000 saving towards a digital strategy. This will be a lengthy process to develop the strategy and this is before it is even acted upon.

“The feedback from the extensive consolation process was overwhelming to keep both centres open.”

Mrs Cosson said the association had partnered with tourism body Prom Country Regional Tourism to promote Korumburra and closing the information centre would be to the detriment of regional tourism.

“People can google all sorts of things but they are not going to find all South Gippsland has to offer with the current digital presence,” she said.

“We urge all councillors to vote against this proposal until a better partnership with PCRT is established with the shire and all towns within the shire. This can be achieved in the next few years but it is way too premature at present to close our information centre.”

Association members have been urged to contact councillors in a bid to gain their support during tomorrow’s vote.

The two centres cost council $325,334 a year and employ a total of 3.6 fulltime equivalent staff supported by volunteers.

The review found more people were using the internet to access visitor information, and more people were using the Foster centre than the Korumburra centre – 12,421 visitors compared to 7161 visitors in 2015-16.

The Korumburra centre therefore costs $22.71 per walk-in visitor compared to $13.01 at Foster.

Prom Country Regional Tourism (PCRT), the regional tourism marketing and industry development association, has called for the centres to stay.

PCRT chair Philip Botte said, “Prom Country Regional Tourism is disappointed with the Visitor Services Review recommendation to close the Korumburra Visitor Information Centre.

“Studies indicate that Visitor Information Centres can help to increase visitor expenditure and positively affect visitors’ perceptions of a region. PCRT contends that reducing the physical VIC presence in South Gippsland would have a detrimental effect on overall visitor yield, which could impact on local businesses.

“We acknowledge there are costs to operating visitor information centres but we are confident that the regional benefits they generate are worth the expense. Prom Country Regional Tourism would like to see the status quo maintained.”

PCRT’s submission said while there were challenges for the centres in a digital environment, “the sheer volume of web-based content will mean that visitors will increasingly seek out VICs for accurate and unbiased information”.

PCRT stated the centres increase visitor expenditure.

In 2010, the Visitor Information Centre (VIC) Reference Group commissioned an independent report to determine the ‘Value of VICs to the Victorian Tourism Industry and Local Economy’.

The report found that: “76 percent of the visitors surveyed indicated that their plans had been influenced by visiting a VIC”.

Surprise move: from left, Korumburra Business Association members Gil Freeman, president Noelene Cosson, John Kennedy (at back), Kelly Hughes, Brian Hess, John O’Rourke, Burke Brandon, Shirley Arestia and Viv Pepper are angered by South Gippsland Shire Council’s proposal to close the Korumburra Visitor Information Centre.

Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=21720

Posted by on Jun 27 2017. Filed under Featured, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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