come-for-the-trail-stay-for-the-weekendMembers of the South Gippsland Walking and Adventure Club, Ros Spratt and Julie Johnston speak with South Gippsland Shire Council consultant for the marketing and promotion plan of the Great Southern Rail Trail Tim Bracher. D102414.

THE Great Southern Rail Trail is an underappreciated tourism attraction.
That was the overwhelming view from community meetings along the trail.
The communities also agreed that for the rail trail to be properly considered a tourism attraction, it needs a number of improvements.
First and foremost was to finish the track by building or fixing the bridges near Koonwarra.
Second was to promote the rail trail, businesses along the track and activities in the area to encourage visitors to stay and play longer in South Gippsland.
South Gippsland Shire Council has employed a consultant, thanks to a Regional Development Victoria Fund grant, to plan how to promote the rail trail.
“We want the Gippsland Southern Rail Trail to be the Great Murray trail of the south,” consultant Tim Bracher from Heine Jones said.
“What we need to get nailed is a new brand that resonates with the urban markets and reflects the values and wonderful communities of South Gippsland.
“We need to understand that a brand isn’t just a logo – it’s an experience.
“Interaction between visitors and locals is a real thrillfor visitors and it’s important to them.”
Mr Bracher said visitors are paying for an experience.
Using statistics from the Murray Rail Trail, visitors bring in $240 per day per visitor to the area.
“There is a real opportunity to tap into that tourism market here,” he said.
“We need to work out how we can do that.”
The first draft of the Great Southern Rail Trail promotion and marketing strategy is due in September 2014.

How to bring in tourists

THE communities along the rail trail were enthused to offer their suggestions in how to attract more people to use the Great Southern Rail Trail.
Suggestions ranged from the super long term (connecting to Mirboo North-Darlimurla track to Yarram), to simple and practical ways to improve the experience.
* Develop consistent signs with entries to towns and also distances to ‘next toilet, next café’; “the current signs assume local knowledge”.
* Information on rail trail heritage, fauna and flora along the route
* Build information shelters with information on local businesses, attractions, galleries
* Install reminder behavioural signs like ‘Dogs must be on leashes’
* Regular weed and rubbish control, could council take on with new Green Army?
* Consistent gate infrastructure, some of the new gates from Foster to Toora are too narrow.
* Solar lighting at key infrastructure, like the Meeniyan pump-house bridge
* Encourage bike racks and places to park bikes near town centres
* Better signed bike lanes in towns and feeder streets to the rail trail
* Co-locate toilets and RV dump toilets
* Request VLine services to allow bikes on buses
For more information or to submit your ideas to make the rail trails successful, contact South Gippsland Shire Council tourism department’s Danielle Todaro on 5662 9322.