18 January 2021

Eurobodalla to close visitor information centres in favour of online resources

| Sharon Kelley
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Exterior of Batemans Bay Visitor Information Centre.

Eurobodalla Shire Council will close the Batemans Bay Visitor Information Centre on 28 February, 2021. Photo: Supplied.

Eurobodalla Shire Council will close the visitor information centres in Batemans Bay and Narooma after a review on their services concluded less than 10 per cent of visitors use them.

Services will now be provided online via the Eurobodalla Coast Tourism website.

Council’s strategic growth manager, Elizabeth Rankin, welcomed the changes to online 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,” she 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.”

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Ms Rankin said even with knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff, a comprehensive assessment of Eurobodalla’s two accredited visitor information centres demonstrated the existing model is broken.

In December 2020, councillors resolved to close the Batemans Bay Visitor Information Centre on 28 February, 2021. One full-time position has been redeployed within the tourism team and the other made redundant. Once the lease for Narooma Visitor Information Centre expires in May 2021, future lessees will not be required to provide visitor services.

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

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

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

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“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 What’s On Eurobodalla 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 to hang that distinctive ‘i’ information symbol out front.”

Ms Rankin said council has 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.

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Where’s Eurobodalla ?? A question asked all around on my Australian caravanning trip !!

Susan Cruttenden4:12 pm 17 Apr 21

The Eurobodalla Shire Council should enable the excellent work provided by dedicated members of MACS to continue by giving them financial assistance to still provide their other services to the community even if their role as a tourist centre is summarily removed on external advice.
With help and gratitude for Montagu Arts and Crafts this excellent group of citizens may then be able to retain its proven importance and capability as a community centre , promoter of local art, and keeper of the Montagu light-a precious symbol and reminder of our marine heritage.
According to Jane Partridge,Policy Manager with Local Government New South Wales ‘Councils are at the forefront of the vital task of conserving the local heritage of NSW. Councils in NSW are both involved in the protection, management and conservation of heritage as both owners and managers of the majority of heritage items and heritage conservation areas”.

Michelle Mead11:46 am 09 Apr 21

I cannot type the language of what I actually think. What a very sad world it is when the fact that when less people use a building it is not financially viable. I have just spent a week in the Hunter Valley and I much prefer to go to the info centre and talk to a REAL person than try to use my phone. It is just like the banks, you cannot talk to a branch, only call centers who told me just this morning after I tried to do a transfer that transferring money was stopped on our account in 1992. HELLO, we just used it in March 2021.
I am sooooo very disappointed.

Rent the buildings out to hungry jacks.

Mark Greaves9:16 pm 25 Feb 21

Eurobodalla to close visitor information centres – Is it the right decision?

It was disappointing for visitors to hear of the pending closure of the Batemans Bay and Narooma visitor information centres as reported on the 17th January in your on line portal ‘about regional’.

Visitor information centres are very much sought after by travellers exploring and experiencing this vast country of ours which includes the region of Eurobodalla.

A recent report on visitor servicing stated the top 5 features that visitors look for in a visitor centre are a welcoming experience, knowledgeable professional staff skilled in customer service, unbiased authoritative and tailored information both online and offline, validation of their research found before and during the trip, and local stories and insights.

Too often many visitor information centres don’t get these basics right and then they blame technology for the lack of visitors through the door. It is always disappointing to hear technology being used as a reason to close a visitor centre when we know that technology combined with a physical presence is the best way for a destination to welcome visitors which in turn bring jobs and economic benefit to a region.

According to economy.id the total tourism and hospitality sales in the Eurobodalla Shire for the 2018/19 year was $317.6m accounting for 2,053 full time equivalent jobs. This is serious business and I’m not sure that leaving the fate of small tourism businesses in the hands of just anyone is going to work. I don’t believe small business who do it tough at the best of times are going to spend their time engaging in small talk to find out what visitors need and want and then, when they find out their product is not suitable, send them down the road to another business; so you’ll end up with unhappy customers and no tourism industry.

I am personally involved in the commercial operation of three visitor information centres and have been in the tourism industry for 35 years. When smart phones came out in 2007 there was a lot of chatter about visitor centres closing however the number that exist now is similar to back in 2007 so I think it shows the majority of these have adapted to technology and the modern way of serving visitors.
The tourism industry is all about people, and a well-run modern day visitor information centre is crucial for the health and well-being of a vibrant local tourism industry. Whilst Councils are more often than not the operator of a visitor information centre and they are experts at local governance, it doesn’t mean they always understand the distribution system within the tourism industry which at the best of times can be difficult to comprehend.

Christine Wynton2:58 pm 21 Jan 21

So why does Merimbula get a new Information Centre, and all Eurobodalla Council can do is close theirs. Maybe the councillors should visit the Bega Shire Council and get some tips on how to look after the tourists who are the bread and butter to a lot of small businesses in the area.

Robert Wynton2:52 pm 21 Jan 21

Not well thought out at all. These services go beyond the basic information that the internet can provide at any given time; that is if you have access to it and as long as you are in an area where it works, no dead spots. When you are out for the day it’s better to have a brochure or printed map than be lost in a dead spot. Elderly people who travel extensively are often not computer savy and have trouble navigating websites, has there been any consideration to these people? Or are they in the minority and they are not important to tourism in these areas. Another big issue that your website won’t have is local knowledge, you say it will but it won’t and you know it. An example of this was when my wife was ill and we tried to find if there were any medical centres open on the weekend, all you got was opening hours. However, on visiting the Information centre in Narooma, we were advised that there was a doctor who would attend his surgery at a given hour each day he had off, to see if there were any patients there and then attend to them if there were. It was local knowledge that helped out on that occasion and that is the type of local knowledge your site won’t have. I don’t believe that your new site can or will supply the local knowledge that the general public often enquires about, like recommendations to restaurants and clubs. I also believe that you are not going to be prepared to listen to any argument that goes against what you intend putting in place. To me it sounds like it is only a matter concerning dollars so try telling that to the people in the Eurobodalla after the last year and a half of fires, floods and covid. Tell that to the businesses who have to jump these unwelcome hurdles put in front of them to make ends meet and remember it is their dollars that you are spending, not yours.
R. Wynton

Jeff de Jager5:18 pm 17 Jan 21

NFI! See the quote above “Surveys found that less than 10 per cent of visitors to Eurobodalla use the centres, and they found it hard to find information, yet most of our tourism budget is going to the centres and printed material.”
It appears nobody asked why all these people found it hard to get information,Councillors included it appears.

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