Four Indigo Council-operated visitor information centres costing $500,000 per year could be scaled back in favour of digital marketing with iPads.
A report released by the council on Wednesday showed visitor engagements with centres in Beechworth, Rutherglen and Chiltern fell by as much as 19.4 per cent, from 2012 to 2014.
The Beechworth facility cost an average of $214,970 per year to run.
The report’s cost-saving options including moving from Ford Street to a higher-traffic location or co-locating with a cafe or Burke Museum.
Rutherglen’s tourism centre ran through Rutherglen Wine Centre Board at an average yearly cost of $135,645.
But the cost did not leave any money for other tourism promotion in the town.
“Visitation to the destination is waning due to lack of top of mind awareness,” the report stated.
“This is evidenced by the markedly reduced Google key word searches for Rutherglen over the past three years.”
The report’s options included closing Rutherglen Winery Experience in favour of iPads and free Wi-Fi.
Foxgloves Bed and Breakfast owner Sheila Rademan told last week’s Indigo Council meeting the shire “seem to want to curtail the operations of the VIC to our detriment as tourism operators”.
“We have a growing dissatisfaction with what’s going on with the council,” she said.
“You seem to forget that we are are the important people, you are here to run the council for us and with us, not over us.”
Executive officer Gerry Smith said the report would only be used as a base to identify areas of the visitor centres needing attention. “The council has been pulling together information from that and seeking input from the tourism sector,” he said.
“That report is something council can accept or reject and there are recommendations in it and options in it that council wouldn’t necessarily consider.”
A decision on the centres would go back before the council after consultation with tourism operators.