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New era for visitor information services

Wednesday 13 January 2021

Instead of having tourists drive to visitor centres for information, moves are afoot to meet them where they already are.

Eurobodalla Council’s manager of strategic growth Elizabeth Rankin welcomed the changes to the distribution of visitor information as “a really positive outcome”.

“These days people rely heavily on local intel – that’s how they decide where to stay and what to do,” Ms Rankin said.

“That authentic, personalised information is king, and contemporary approaches to visitor services engage and enable residents and businesses to share information. Everyone in Eurobodalla can play a role in getting the right information to the right people at the right time.”

Ms Rankin said even with knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff, a comprehensive assessment of Eurobodalla’s two accredited Visitor Information Centres (VICs) demonstrated the existing model was broken.

As a result of the review, councillors resolved in December 2020 to close the VIC in Batemans Bay on 28 February this year. One full-time position has been redeployed within the tourism team and the other made redundant. Once the lease for the Narooma VIC expires in May, future lessees will not be required to provide visitor services.

“The VICs were set up decades ago, when people made travel decisions quite differently,” Ms Rankin said.

“Surveys found that less than 10 per cent of visitors to Eurobodalla use the VICs, and they found it hard to find information, yet most of our tourism budget is going to VICs and printed material.”

Ms Rankin said it was time to take information to visitors instead of making visitors travel to information centres, with personal recommendations supported by online information at the forefront.

“Plenty of businesses and individuals are already fully engaged with visitors and using excellent new online resources to support that,” she said.

“For example, we’ve integrated a mapping program into eurobodalla.com.au so people can curate their own itineraries online. And we’ve recently launched whatson.eurobodalla.com.au to highlight the many events and activities Eurobodalla has to offer.

“We’ll provide additional training on getting the best use of those resources to any businesses who want it. That gives them the option them to hang that distinctive “i” information symbol out front.”

Ms Rankin said Council had also updated print collateral, with six activity-based and five town-based brochures, “for the cohort of people who still like information they can grab hold of”.

Another initiative – ePostcards – lets residents and visitors send virtual postcards to invite visitors to share their favourite shire locations and attractions.