The City of Victor Harbor is changing how it delivers its visitor services. The major change will involve the consolidation of the Visitor Information Centre (VIC) and SA Whale Centre into one location, the site of the SA Whale Centre in Railway Terrace.
Why is Council consolidating its visitor services?
The City of Victor Harbor is unique as it is responsible for a number of visitor servicing businesses like the SA Whale Centre and VIC, as well as being the owner of the iconic Victor Harbor Horse Tram. While these services provide important economic and social benefits to our community, the Council have a responsibility to ensure these services are operated efficiently and continue to meet the needs of visitors, aligning with the Council’s strategic vision for Victor Harbor.
By combining the two businesses there is an opportunity to enhance the service, reduce operating costs and facilitate re-direction of resources into destination marketing to better meet the needs of our community.
Consolidating the VIC and SA Whale Centre will enable more resources to be channeled into enhancing Victor Harbor’s online visitor information offering and catering for a broader market.
It will also allow Council to increase its efforts in promoting the wonderful aspects of our city to visitors through modern digital and online tools.
Adapting to changes in visitor behavior
Each year around 1.2 million visitors come to Victor Harbor, injecting $153 million into the local economy. The VIC and SA Whale Centre currently service only around 5% of these visitors. This is evidence of the strong shift towards visitors sourcing travel information (both while planning a holiday and at the destination) from digital and online platforms.
Staff and volunteers are highly valuable advocates for local tours, attractions and experiences. They are also great ambassadors for Victor Harbor and will remain at the heart of our visitor services delivery. For this reason, face-to-face visitor information services will continue to have an important place in our service offering.
Eliminating duplication of services and achieving cost savings
The Council currently invests around $664,000 each year to operate the VIC and SA Whale Centre. While each has its own identity there is a duplication of services provided in terms of visitor information, bookings and advertising.
Savings under a consolidated model are expected to be in the order of $150,000 per annum. However, it may take up to two years for the full extent of the savings to materialise.
Increasing our focus on local tourism businesses and experiences
Since 2011 the VIC has provided a booking service. This service is available both at the centre and via the Council’s tourism website, www.encountervictorharbor.com.au. Bookings can be made for tours, attractions and accommodation. A booking service is also provided within the centre for Sealink and Kangaroo Island. As well as being highly resource intensive, more than half of the products booked by the VIC are for businesses or experiences located outside of the Council area.
While the Council’s visitor service will continue to play an important role in promoting the region and South Australia, it is the Council’s intention to increase the focus on promoting local and transition to a concierge type service that facilitates bookings directly between the visitor and tourism business.
The Council will complement the concierge service with the introduction of free advertising for tourism businesses located within the City of Victor Harbor council area.
When will the Visitor Centre move to the Railway Goods Shed?
While a number of service changes will commence immediately, the VIC service is expected to move into the Railway Goods Shed around March 2022. While works were expected to be complete in October 2021, unexpected circumstances have resulted in further delays to the project.
One of the key components of the renovation is the inclusion of a lift to provide access to the three levels within the facility. Initially there was a delay in procuring the lift, with limited supply and delays to import. However, the main complexity has been the discovery of a perched water table making it difficult to excavate soil from the building without the sand subsiding.
Multiple specialist engineers were consulted to determine the best remedy which ultimately led to the relocation of the lift shaft to a more appropriate location. While excavating sand from the new location, a large piece of limestone has been unearthed (this was not previously detected in core sampling work undertaken prior to works commencing). In order to overcome this, contractors have had to break down the limestone bit by bit with manual labour.
Until the renovations are complete, Council's face-to-face visitor service will continue to operate out of the Coral Street Art Space in the Mainstreet Precinct.
Upgrades to the Railway Goods Shed
The renovations include installation of a lift, re-setting stairs and handrails, upgrading toilet facilities, installation of fire safety equipment and services to building code requirements, roof replacement, insulation and heating/cooling, as well as some new fixtures and fittings to facilitate the delivery of visitor services from the space.
The $630,000 project will be part funded through the Australian Government’s Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program with a contribution of $355,740.
Further updates on the renovations will be provided as the project progresses.
Visit visitvictorharbor.com.au to find out more about experiences available in Victor Harbor.