Visitor centres across Australia have formed a professional association, and together launched an app to help domestic travellers and international visitors explore Australia with greater confidence.
Commenting on the need for a formal grouping, Mark Greaves, head of the Association of Australian Visitor Centres and director of The Tourism Group, said: “Accredited visitor centres have been around for a while in Australia. While the accreditation is fairly new, there is a growing awareness of the need to have a collective voice and single touchpoint for the tourism industry. It was a logical step forward and all stakeholders – such as local associations and Tourism Australia – were supportive of this concept.”
Currently, more than 450 accredited visitor centres are spread across Australia, and these are open seven days a week. Pre-pandemic, some 13.5 million international and local travellers utilise these visitor centres, said Greaves.
The association’s new app directs visitors to the nearest accredited visitor centre – a necessary product “when there are often hundreds of kilometres between towns”, Greaves explained.
“It is reassuring to know there is someone up ahead who can assist in an area, town or region new to the visitor,” he said.
The app also provides an offline map that is useful in locations with no telecommunication coverage.
Speaking to TTG Asia at the recently-concluded Australian Tourism Exchange (ATE) in Sydney, Greaves regarded the event as a “watershed moment” for the association – it was the first time the association participated in a B2B tradeshow.
Aside from providing value to ATE visitors, Greaves said the association’s presence was a way to show airlines, coach companies, car hire companies and inbound tour operators the “value of local town and regional contacts looking to find unique and differentiated products for their clients”.
“This is the first time visitor centres have been brought under one umbrella, and we are excited about the opportunities.”
As to how these physical visitor centres stand against the convenience of online destination searches, Greaves said: “Face-to-face interaction is still appreciated, more so after the pandemic. The visitor centres offer a friendly face, and knowledgeable and up-to-date local recommendations about nearby attractions and places of interest. Sometimes, travellers also come in to verify information they found on Google!”
Greaves is confident that the association will grow from strength to strength as more travellers return to Australia. Future plans include building relations and partnering with key industry bodies such as Tourism Australia and the Australian Tourism Export Council for various outreach activities, as well as working closely with travel agents to add the app to clients’ pre-travel general information.