The Wimmera’s tourism representatives have revealed their plans to grow the industry in 2019, as new figures show visitor numbers continue to climb.
Tourism Research Australia released its latest National and International Visitor Surveys earlier this week.
While the Wimmera did not feature in the top 50 regions nationwide, the body said there was nonetheless a jump in overall visitor numbers. In the 12 months to September last year, 431,000 people visited Buloke, Yarriambiack, Hindmarsh and West Wimmera shires, up from 402,000 in the year to September 2017.
The tourism body said these visitors spent a total of 843,000 nights in the region, up from 644,000, while the region yielded $70 million from tourism across the 12 months.
Though this news is seemingly positive, Wimmera Mallee Tourism and Yarriambiack Tourism chairwoman Helen Ballentine said she took the figures with a grain of salt.
“We have people who need real figures. Businesses need evidence before they can consider expanding or opening longer or developing their businesses more to the tourism market,” she said.
“No one is going to expand or put on more staff unless they have some evidence there were 50 people tapping on their door over the weekend.”
The Yarriambiack Shire councillor said the municipality’s tourism body planned to get its own visitor figures this year to help businesses.
Cr Ballentine said towns in the shire were gradually adapting to service a growing number of tourists to the Silo Art Trail.
“We still have a lot of work to do. We still have shops closed when we’d like them open, but generally speaking there is always something open at Lascelles or Hopetoun or Warracknabeal. Numbers will drive people to open at different hours,” she said.
“In the last three years some hotels have revamped themselves, and more B and B’s are popping up.”
Hindmarsh Shire mayor Ron Ismay, a former Wimmera Mallee Tourism chief, said the group’s focus this year was to get people staying in the region for longer when they came for the silo trail.
“If people plan to see all the silos in the region they will need to stay here overnight,” he said.
“So whether they enter at Patchewollock, do a loop and exit via Lascelles and camp in Mildura or Swan Hill, or whether they come in at Rupanyup, people come from different directions, and that means there will be plenty of opportunities for accommodation.”
Cr Ismay said the group was reaching out to Probus clubs in Melbourne to try to get buses of visitors to the region, while also looking at expanding tourist numbers from South Australian regions such as the Limestone Coast.
A further three silo artworks at Goroke, Kaniva and Servicetown are due to be completed in the next 12 months, while Cr Ismay said grain storages at Albacutya, Antwerp and Dimboola were next on his wishlist for an artistic makeover.