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Doubts over visitor service

11 Feb 2014

Doubts over visitor service Image

Docklands could miss out on a potential tourism booster unless the City of Melbourne secures a partner to help fund a visitor service at Southern Cross Station.

Council has been investigating a visitor information service in or near the city’s major visitor entry point for seven years.

Most recently it funded a $50,000 static trial at the station between September and November last year, covering the Royal Melbourne Show, Melbourne Cup Carnival, and AFL finals period.

A report on the trial recommended that the only option for a City of Melbourne visitor service at the station was a partnership model and was endorsed unanimously by councillors at a Future Melbourne meeting on December 10.

The report revealed that the visitor centre recorded 17,700 contacts over the 56-day trial, with no increase on event days.

However, 63 per cent of enquiries related to Myki, public transport and Southern Cross Station.

Just 25 per cent of enquiries related to Melbourne as a visitor destination and, of these, less than 1 per cent were specifically about Docklands.

But when Docklands News spoke to Cr Beverly Pinder-Mortimer about the trial in October last year she said visitor service staff were actively promoting Docklands to tourists.

According to a council spokesperson only “reactive enquiries” were recorded for the report, which suggests the pro-active promotional possibilities of the service haven’t been assessed.

It’s estimated the cost of setting up the visitor service would be $798,000, with an annual operating cost of $816,000.

Speaking at the Future Melbourne meeting, Tourism Melbourne manager Barry McGuren, who presented the report, maintained the visitor service was a fantastic idea because it was an opportunity to capture arriving visitors.

He said the service should only be considered under the partnership model.

A council spokesperson said the City of Melbourne would be writing to station manager Asset Co, Public Transport Victoria, Tourism Victoria and V-Line and may consider other partners.

Although councillors unanimously supported further investigation into a partnership model, Lord Mayor Robert Doyle was unconvinced the project should go ahead.

While prepared to support council officers’ investigation into the partnership model he said he had not seen any demonstrated benefit for the City of Melbourne.

Cr Cathy Oke said, while there was some data showing that people wanted to hear more about the City of Melbourne, council had developed other opportunities to access this information via websites, apps, way-finding signage and the existing visitor centres.

In contrast, Cr Stephen Mayne was supportive of the visitor service concept, saying it was logical.

He said Melbourne was a rapidly growing city and when the regional rail link was fully commissioned numbers coming into Southern Cross would grow rapidly, making plans for a visitor centre a good idea.

Councillors will hear a report from management on an attempt to seek an in-principle agreement from key stakeholders on a partnership model for a visitor service by the end of March.

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