WE’RE authentic and we’ve got the Prom but how well are we going at attracting visitors to South Gippsland, showing them a good time when they get here and protecting the environment and local community from any adverse impact?

The South Gippsland Shire Council has just endorsed a new document, ‘The Visitor Economy Strategy 2021-31’, which addresses those points while charting an ambitious plan for the future.

It’s a $114 million-a-year business already, and growing, and this strategy aims to supercharge that growth… but is the council on the right track?

It’s now time for the broader community to have its say about what’s in the report, what’s been missed and what should be left out.

Shire administrator Rick Brown urged the general community to do just that:

“As we’re all aware, South Gippsland is blessed with a number of natural advantages, including soil, rain, glorious landscapes and proximity to Melbourne.

However, South Gippsland will not attain the full advantage of these natural assets if it relies upon chance.

“And as a consequence of that, we have established two expert committees to provide assistance in developing long-term strategy over a 10-year time frame for both economic development and for visitor strategy.

“The reason for 10 years is that if one is going to plan and be committed, one needs an approach which takes more than five minutes.

“Any organisation that is successful is successful long-term because it thinks ahead.

“The expert committees have done an outstanding job. They’re comprised of people both from within the shire and outside the shire and have responded to the challenge of identifying opportunities and challenges over this period.

“When we read the draft reports, it is clear to see the thought and the research that’s reflected in the drafts, and the extensive consultation that has already occurred, with those who have a direct interest in either the economic development of the shire or growing our visitor market.

“The draft strategies when one looks at them are thorough, they’re comprehensive, they’re wide ranging. They had the virtue, not only of identifying opportunities and challenges, but also in proposing actions to respond to those challenges.

“The final step in the process is to widen the consultation to include the community at large. And the purpose of today’s resolution is to enable that to happen.”

What’s the action plan

Authors of the new tourism strategy say they are more interested in action than motherhood statements and here’s a snapshot of some of the actions on the agenda under six theme headings:

Theme one – Increasing marketing and promotion

• Develop a promotional website to attract visitors to South Gippsland.

• Develop an annual marketing campaign for the South Gippsland region drawing on support from government partners where needed.

• Develop and implement localised South Gippsland branding consistent with the Gippsland brand developed by Destination Gippsland (DGL).

• Partner and collaborate with Gippsland councils to develop cross-regional marketing ideas.

• Develop a Grand Ridge Road map and promote it as a key Gippsland touring route.

• Develop and deliver a strategic and marketing plan for the Great Southern Rail Trail.

• Coordinate a marketing campaign with a focus on villages and local eateries.

• Develop a Shop South Gippsland campaign to encourage support for local retail businesses.

Theme two – Supporting visitor economy infrastructure

• Advocate to federal and state government for key tourism projects supported by council.

• Develop public art along the Great Southern Rail Trail.

• Identify additional supporting rail trail infrastructure requirements (such as additional trail connections, horse mounting yards, repair stations, shelters, toilets, car parks, interpretive signage, seat and bike racks etc).

• Install wayfinding signage for the GSRT from key locations off the South Gippsland Highway and main arterial roads.

• Identify and then seek funding opportunities to implement actions from the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Study.

Theme three – Diversifying and expanding products and experiences

• Determine a policy position on events and develop an event framework.

• Position Coal Creek as a key Cultural Tourism asset for South Gippsland.

• Support the Bicycle Network ‘Riding for Recovery Hub and Spoke’ weekend event.

Theme four – Enhancing visitor servicing

• Continue the operation of the Visitor Information Centre in Foster.

• Undertake updated visitor research to better understand customer needs and expectations.

Theme five – Building partnerships

• Work with local business and community groups to promote opportunities for local operators.

• Collaborate with Parks Victoria on South Gippsland projects and marketing where opportunities exist or a need is identified.

• Provide community groups interested in establishing free or low-cost camping with information and advice.

Theme six – Providing business development and support

• Promote targeted training and skills programs to local businesses.

• Support Destination Gippsland Ltd to deliver the Gippsland Digital Maze Program to South Gippsland businesses.