HALLS GAP - Milder weather has been a driving force behind stable figures for tourist numbers in Halls Gap over the Christmas and New Year holiday period.
Grampians Tourism chief executive officer, Will Flamsteed said anecdotal evidence suggests it has been a busy period for the inland tourist mecca.
"The cooler weather also affects people's decision to go to the beach. Having cooler weather generally drives visitors inland rather than coastal holidays, so we have benefited from that," he said.
Northern Grampians Shire Council Business Services and Tourism Manager, Debbie Bach said it was difficult to get an accurate picture of visitation numbers in recent months due to the relocation of the Tourist Information Centre.
"The Halls Gap Visitor Information Centre has recorded a significant drop in numbers from November onwards, due to the relocation of the Centre to Brambuk during construction of the Halls Gap Hub," she said.
The 2013 November total of 6409 visitors was well down on the 2012 figure of 9796 with half the number of visitors (5282) recorded in December compared to 10, 307 for the same time a year earlier.
Halls Gap generally experiences its greatest visitation in January, March and April with in excess of 10,000 people stopping by in each of those months.
"Staff have been manning a "pop-up" information booth on selected days in the Halls Gap retail area, and this has ensured that visitors are receiving accurate information about the walks and attractions in the area. The booth has dealt with up to 400 enquiries a day," Mrs Bach said.
Research by Tourism Victoria and Deloitte Access Economics has revealed tourism contributed $949 million to the Grampians economy (22.2 per cent of gross regional product) and employed 8,300 people (18.1 per cent of regional employment) in 2011-12.
Mr Flamstead said the organisations focus in the last 12 months has been to raise the awareness of the Grampians as a leading nature based destination.
"Marketing activities to support these objectives include our social media lead campaign - instagrampians, working with our partners on Great Ocean Road to internationally market the Grampians on the looped itinerary called Great Southern Touring Route.
"Ensuring the Grampians Peaks Trail Project evolves by regionally driving the development of the Grampians Peaks Trail Master Plan and developing practical opportunities for Council stakeholders to invest and grow visitor dispersal in and around the Grampians National Park."
Brambuk - The National Park and Cultural Centre Assistant Parks Information Rebecca Walker said while last holiday season was overly busy, this year had been comparatively quiet.
Ms Walker said visitors continue to call in for information about popular walks including the Pinnacle, Boroka Lookout, Reids Lookout, The Balconies and McKenzie Falls.
"It is definitely a lot quieter. Last year was crazy but it has been a bit colder and a bit windier," she said.
Tim Walsh of Tim's Place Backpackers said up until the end of December he was on track to record a great season - possibly his best ever.
Mr Walsh who this season celebrates 20 years in an industry which relies almost solely (90 percent) on international tourists said he was benefiting from the stabilising Australian dollar.
"I'm really optimistic about January and February and I come to that conclusion based on two logics; the first is the cooler weather and the fact we have had no fire threats, the second is that the dollar has dropped 15 percent since it reached its peak about this time 12 months ago," he said.
Halls Gap Caravan Park Manager Johanna Peet said their intake has been the same as last season with the exception of a rise in international visitors from European locations including Germany and the Netherlands.
"It was steady, we haven't had any change to occupancy rates. Spring was heaps busier this year (2013) than last year (2012), but into summer things have mellowed," she said.
Mr Flamstead said Grampians Tourism's focus in the next 12 months would be to tap into the online trends of tourists.
"To leverage off the growing trend for visitors searching and booking travel online, by having a greater, cohesive presence electronically. To cooperatively grow our online presence via the Grampians Online Strategy," he said.
"It is vital we continue to identify and grow investment to ensure long term regional sustainability."