A city for ‘smart’ tourists

TIME TO REBRAND: Cr Libby Hall at the council meeting with Cr Danny Lowe, who said councillors had “a chance to leapfrog what others are doing in regards to the VIC and lead in an innovative way”. Picture: MARK JESSER
TIME TO REBRAND: Cr Libby Hall at the council meeting with Cr Danny Lowe, who said councillors had “a chance to leapfrog what others are doing in regards to the VIC and lead in an innovative way”. Picture: MARK JESSER

The government-owned company responsible for attracting tourists to Victoria has endorsed the decision to close Wodonga’s visitor information centre.

Councillors were forced to defend their position at Monday night’s meeting as they passed the plan to switch to a digital focus.

The response from the public had been overwhelmingly negative – on social media and in phone calls.

But Visit Victoria corporate affairs general manager John Appleton said travellers had embraced new technologies, both to plan trips and during their stay.

“People are turning to smartphones, apps and websites for all their travel information and the industry is evolving too,” he said.

“Digital hubs in popular tourist destinations, like wineries and galleries, are proving to be great sources of information for tourists.”

The Yarra Valley Regional Tourism Board has also announced the closure of two visitor information centres in favour of a mobile model.

Mayor Anna Speedie met with the Visit Victoria chief executive recently and when asking how he saw the future of visitor information centres, she said he just held up his mobile phone.

“That is actually where most of our information is coming from, for everything,” she said.

“This has been in place (around the world) for a very long time in terms of touchscreens, interactions allowing for the information to be really timely. Gone are the days of the brochure - once they’re printed, they’re actually out of date.”

Cr Speedie said relying on smart terminals in the city would not be perfect and called on shop owners and moteliers to help visitors in the information centre’s absence.

“Each of those who benefit from the people who are coming and spending money also hold a responsibility in terms of some of that education and information,” she said. “It’s going to be challenging for some people in our community, but this is exciting and we do have a unique and exciting opportunity to present our city in a very different way.”

The mayor only supported the council staff plan to shut the information centre after Cr Ron Mildren introduced an amendment, ordering a study into recreation vehicle parking in Wodonga’s CBD.

The report, to be finished before the July council meeting, would examine the traditionally older tourists who favoured RVs and information centres over the digital approach.

Cr Libby Hall said she supported the closure in principle, but questioned why the council had not consulted the public. ​“We need to have a larger plan of where we’re going,” she said.

“I really want to take it out to the community and see what they think.”