A major consultation process undertaken by Bland Shire Council has demonstrated strong support for improved visitor information facilities.
As part of a new Community Engagement Strategy, Council recently surveyed the business community, visitors to the area and the wider Bland Shire community about the demand for new or improved visitor information facilities and services.
A report presented to last night’s February Council meeting showed across the board support for improved visitor information facilities, including the provision of a new Visitor Information Centre (VIC).
The Visitor Information and Cultural community survey was distributed through Australia Post unaddressed mail to every address in the Bland Shire, as well as being made available online, and received an impressive 519 responses.
Independent consultancy firm Community Development Initiatives (CDI) were commissioned to provide an analysis of the survey results and reported that there is a clear community preference for a new Visitor Information Centre on an existing site while the most popular expenditure range for such a facility was between $50,000 and $200,000 followed by $200,000-$500,000.
“It would appear that the desire of the community to have a facility on an existing site is linked to the desire to have minimal expenditure on the development of a new VIC,” the CDI report read.
“The most popular expenditure range would in all probability only allow for a renovation/modification of an existing building. Any new building constructed with that spread of budget would be very modest.”
An existing building at the McCann Park end of Main Street was by far the most popular location for a new VIC followed by McCann Park itself.
The survey also indicated a firm belief from the community that a new facility should be open seven days a week and staffed by a mixture of trained staff and volunteers.
Most people indicated they are satisfied with the current cultural activities available in the Bland Shire but showed support for markets, local heritage and history, music and the “In the West” festival.
The visitors survey was distributed through 15 local motels, caravan parks and hotels to coincide with the peak holiday period but received a meagre 49 responses.
“Whilst the methodology and questions related to this survey are solid and have resulted in some data that can be useful to Council the low number of responses must be cause for unease. Council’s staff diligently and in good faith distributed 750 surveys and only had 49 returned,” the analysis report from CDI read.
The survey showed that about half of the respondents always or regularly attended a Visitor Information Centre while travelling but only two of 49 respondents indicated they had utilised Council’s existing VIC at the Bland Shire library. Most people indicated they would be more likely to utilise a new VIC facility in West Wyalong or Wyalong.
The majority of travelers said that they had decided to stop for the night in West Wyalong due to convenience, business or fatigue but indicated they would stay longer (37 per cent) or may stay longer (26.5 per cent) if they could access a new VIC.
Meanwhile, Council staff conducted a door knock in late January to survey local businesses to gauge their perspective regarding visitor information services and received a pleasing 76 responses.
The results show that local business overwhelmingly (92.11 per cent) believe that a visitor information centre or visitor information services are necessary for the Bland Shire and highlighted the importance of face to face interactions, personalised service and first hand access to local knowledge.
Most businesses believe that tourism plays a major part in their business and that a new VIC would increase the profitability of their business, although it was felt that the location of the facility would be crucial.
Similar to the community survey, the most favoured location for a new VIC was the McCann Park end of Main Street while the most popular expenditure range was $50,000-$200,000 although there was also support for an expenditure range of between $500,000 and $1 million.
The survey results and reports were formally “received and noted” at last night’s meeting and can now be considered by Council in its planning and budget discussions surrounding the provision of visitor information services in the Bland Shire.