HALLS GAP - Northern Grampians Shire Council has stepped up its commitment to ensuring recognition for Halls Gap as a premier tourist resort town.
Council has supported the establishment of a Project Control Group to oversee a project to develop and town as a tourist resort and has appointed ward councillor, Paul Russell, as its representative on the Project Control Group.
Cr Russell described Halls Gap as a unique place offering unique experiences for visitors.
"Tourism is a major industry in Halls Gap and the shire and is an ever evolving industry," he said.
"Halls Gap is a unique place. Tourists go there for the relaxed atmosphere and the facilities that are there, but there is a push these days from tourists who now want more value for their money."
Cr Russell said Halls Gap was already recognised as the heart of the Grampians and there were new opportunities now to build on that even further.
He said it would be important for the Project Control Group to speak with as many people as possible to hear their ideas.
"It will be important that we speak with people in the industry in Stawell, St Arnaud and the Grampians and also the tourists themselves to determine what they want," he said.
"Then we can come up with a workable model that best serves the entire region, covering Halls Gap, the Grampians and the rest of the shire."
Cr Kevin Erwin supported the move by council and said it made sense that Halls Gap be recognised as a tourist resort town.
"You only have to see what has happened at Dunkeld," he said.
"One great development down there has made such a big difference."
Cr Tony Driscoll was also in support of the push to have Halls Gap recognised as a premier tourist destination.
"The importance of the Halls Gap tourism industry to the Northern Grampians Shire and its economic prosperity is integral," he said.
"Hopefully by speaking to the appropriate people, the Project Control group will help make Halls Gap into a premier tourist destination."
Cr Murray Emerson said he was certain Cr Russell was the right man to be steering the project.
"As the ward councillor, Halls Gap couldn't wish for a better representative."
Council's Director Marketing and Community, Jim Nolan, said council was committed to taking a proactive approach to the development of Halls Gap as a Tourist Resort Town.
Mr Nolan said the direct and indirect economic impact of tourism in the Grampians region is in the order of $224 million per annum.
"Halls Gap is the primary township annually servicing in excess of one million visitors to the Grampians region," he said.
"It provides accommodation for in excess of 5000 overnight visitors, including a range of restaurants, cafes and retail stores, galleries and attractions. Halls Gap hosts significant events attracting large numbers of visitors such as the Jazz Festival and the Grampians Grape Escape. Halls Gap is the centre of Parks Victoria and Grampians Tourism, and includes the Brambuk Cultural Centre as an iconic tourist attraction."
Mr Nolan said following flood events, there had been a lot of work of late focused on building community aspirations, building resilience and disaster management.
"In order to grow the region's tourism industry, it is important that the visitors experience is strengthened by continuing to develop the product, and Halls Gap makes a significant contribution to that visitor experience," Mr Nolan said.
"While there has been significant work on council's part to plan for Halls Gap and its development, this project seeks to build on that work and take a more proactive approach to development of the of the town as a Tourist Resort Town."
Mr Nolan said issues the new Project Control Group would seek to investigate may include:
Strategy to strengthen and improve commercial retail offerings.
Strategy to encourage public or private investment to improve product which enhances the visitor‟ experience.
Opportunities which are identified through the marketing research facilitated by Grampians Tourism including the Grampians Destination Management Plan, Peaks Trail and the proposed Digital strategy.
Opportunities to develop public infrastructure, building on recent and current projects such as the Community Hub.
Provide input into the review of visitor information services, and review of local planning policies contained in the Northern Grampians Planning Scheme.