Roads never led to Wodonga visitor centre

WODONGA Council's commitment to tourism has been brought sharply into focus with its decision to scrap a visitor information centre.

Within five short years, Wodonga has gone from operating two centres to none by moving to a digital-first approach.

In 2012, the council complemented a long-term presence on Gateway Island by opening another centre opposite The Cube, which was still under construction, with the justification being the city's tourism offering couldn't be covered adequately from only one site.

But many argued at the time the Hovell Street location was doomed to fail.

Poor access and visibility meant visitors, particularly the surging Grey Nomad market, couldn't be served adequately and inevitably the decision to shut it down has eventuated.

Wodonga has the lowest number of walk-in visitors compared to other centres in the entire Murray region.

Across the river in Albury its visitor information centre is situated in a highly visible location at the railway station with adequate parking for caravans and the like developed over time.

Plans are also afoot in Albury to create a dedicated recreational vehicle park on the Murray River.

The Hovell Street centre had a 32.5 per cent drop in visitors between 2014-15 and 2015-16.

The cost to run the centre last financial year was $316,000.

A switch to a digital offering is being justified by an increased number of hits on the Visit Albury-Wodonga website and social media platforms.

The numbers don't lie.

Councillors are responsible for ensuring ratepayer dollars are spent wisely, but with tourism contributing more than $600 million each year to the Albury-Wodonga economy it is certainly justification for some face-to-face presence in Wodonga.

Particularly given the city is always on the lookout for major sporting and cultural events which bring visitors to the city for multiple night stays.

Given the emergence of industry opposition to the decision to close the only remaining visitor information centre two cost-effective solutions worthy of further investigation by council are another pop-up venture in Junction Place or a space within The Cube.

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