STAWELL tourism operators have hit out at Grampians Tourism, saying the closure of the Stawell Visitor Information Centre two days a week and its loss of accreditation is hurting the town.
Grampians Tourism took control of the centre from Northern Grampians Shire about 18 months ago.
Chief executive Will Flamsteed said the agreement with council required the centre to operate five days a week. He said Grampians Tourism would love the centre to open seven days but needed community volunteers to make that a reality.
Stawell Grampians Gate Caravan Park’s Marianne Braam said Grampians Tourism should be doing more to ensure the centre was open all week.
“I find it disgusting. A tourism organisation should be doing more to find employees and volunteers,” she said.
“Because we’re on the highway there’s a pipeline of outside money coming through.”
Mrs Braam said the centre had lost its accreditation as a gold ‘i’ centre, and thus its highway signage. “If someone calls in on a Monday or a Tuesday and it’s closed – well off they go,” she said.
“Word spreads fast. You only need to lose one person to lose multiples through word of mouth.”
Mrs Braam said she had seen firsthand how important the centre was to tourists, with her customers often frequenting the centre, despite having just received information. Grampians Helicopter’s Justin Neofitou said his operation had no town storefront and would like to have a presence via the centre seven days a week.
Picker’s Market proprietor Anthea Perry said the centre sent many tourists to businesses. She said while it was closed potential customers were not hearing about the market. “It’s a definite negative being closed because Stawell is spread out. There’s businesses on the highway, the township and if people don’t go to the centre, they might not get all the details on what’s available.”
Mr Flamsteed said tourists used a variety of means to find what towns had to offer, including online information or shopkeeper knowledge.
“It’s not to say (visitor information centres) don’t play an important part but it’s not the only avenue to find information,” he said.
“We looked at usage figures and decided under the financial structure to open on the best days. We’d like to open the extra days but we need support. Visitors don’t place any more importance in a gold ‘i’ or a white ‘i’.”