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Waikerie Visitor Information Centre - Q & A

A Visitor Information Services stakeholder information session was hosted by the Riverland West Chamber of Commerce on Thursday 30th June 2016 at the Waikerie Hotel. Attending on behalf of council were Mayor Stasinowsky, Deputy Mayor Vowels, Councillors Quast and Webber; CEO, P Ackland, Director of Corporate and Community Services, J Hausler, Tourism Manger, T Bye and approximately 40 Riverland West Chamber of Commerce members and guests.  

Prior to the meeting Council received 15 questions (attached) from the Riverland West Chamber of Commerce regarding the Visitor Information Service Review and these questions were addressed in a presentation covering four main topic areas:

  • Current status
  • Immediate priorities
  • Longer term deliverables
  • Other suggested topics of interest

Following is an overview of comments and questions from the floor following the power point presentation (attached):

1.  Question asker sought an explanation of the hub-style arrangement and referenced that a hub is like a spoke wheel 

Response:

Good analogy, however not the intent of the intended hub concept for the CIVIC Centre and how it is intended to be implied. Concept is based around having a number of Council Services together in a single hub of services.

Notably the Waikerie Visitor Information Centre (VIC) at the CIVIC Centre would be considered as central body with links/spokes to 2 Visitor Information Outlet’s (VIO).

2.  Can there be an improvement on future public consultation, as it has been poor so far?

Response:

Yes.

Council has endorsed consulting further with Community as part of the process it will now go through. It is acknowledged that in the first instance Council has had to focus in on working through the process of setting up Visitor Information Services, and that this has taken precedence to further community consultation.

Attending this session at the facilitation of the Riverland West Chamber of Commerce has also become a way we can communicate with the community and improve our consultation.

3.  Question asker noted a number of matters including: insufficient public consultation; Hub should be short term not long term option; street location preferable rather than Civic building; more consultation to consider other long term options; concerns that council and the recommendations favour the Civic Centre as the preferred long term option, without consultation.

Response:

Having Visitor Information Services provided out of the Waikerie CIVIC Centre has been considered as  both a good short term option to continue to provide Visitor Information Services for Waikerie and also a viable long term option that needs to be considered further before making any more significant investment. Having further community consultation on the longer term is what has been endorsed by Council in their recommendations.

4.  Question asker noted that VIC landscape is rapidly changing; SA Tourism Services report to be released soon; location is critical; needs to be a sustainable business model; needs to be a destination in its own right; the Civic Centre to be temporary only to allow further consideration to a better site; accreditation states full time manager but only allowance for .75 FTE; should not to invest too much in a temporary sites as there will be less chance to move/reinvest later.

Response:

It is proposed to meet accreditation requirements through a similar model to what we use in Loxton to provide services. Council has only approved investment to get this site up and running in order to continue to provide services and has already recommended that we consult further with the community before making any further investment.

It is agreed any model needs to be sustainable in order to get the best value to the Waikerie community from any investment made.

5.  Question asker noted if the Waikerie prosperity plans been considered regarding the Hub and parking? Has consideration been given to the Historical Society building? Peake Terrace is a better option – closer to bakery and cafes.

Response:

Council will be considering further the best longer term visitor information service options, what they may look like and how they will function most effectively in providing services to the community. Any supported outcomes from the Waikerie prosperity panel will also be taken into account.

The Historical Society Building was considered in the review process but not initially considered suitable due to a number of factors, including a lack of parking for longer vehicles, that has an existing tenant that has expressed interest in the balance of the building and also the need to make further significant investment in its set-up as a site that could provide accredited services. Any structured and specified options around the future use of this building as a place to provide visitor information services in the future would be considered by Council as part of its intended consultation process.

6.  Question asker suggested we extend the current proprietors contract to allow more time to investigate – rather than just a short term option and allow for more public consultation; has council asked the current proprietor to extend?

Response:

The current proprietor was contacted following the initial council decision to conduct a review to denote Councils decision to seek a short-term extension with the proprietor. Council was verbally advised at that time that the proprietor would need time to consider an extension further before making a decision. No further consultation occurred with the proprietor to see how they were going with making their decision, prior to receiving formal written correspondence outlining the proprietor’s future position about not continuing beyond the current contract ending 30th September 2016.

It has been publically acknowledged that Council staff could have followed up sooner with the proprietor about the Council proposal and what their thoughts were regarding an extension. 

The proprietor has advised Council in writing that she especially does not want to extend her contract past 30 September 2016 and does not wish to be considered as a Visitor Information Office.

7.  Question asker noted the current proprietors hasn’t received any contact from council since October, so resigned; extend or reissue the contract to the current proprietor to allow time to undertake the transition process; Council hasn’t had close contact with the current proprietors and Council should have encouraged her to continue.

Response:

As noted above re contact that has occurred.

Council has had no request or contact from the current proprietor in regard to further discussions regarding reconsidering the previously advised formal position of not extending the Visitor Information Services contract.

The proprietor has been supportive of the endorsed way forward and Council has contacted the proprietor to discuss transition arrangements.

The current proprietor has been highly committed to providing Visitor Information Services for the Waikerie community for the last 17 years, and the Mayor and CEO have written to the proprietor to thank them for their efforts.

8.  Question asker noted that we should start social media straight away, sooner rather than later; to include events, business activities, etc.

Response:

Council recognises that we need to work further on our overall communication strategy and that tourism information is one part of the total communication message that is recognised for focus.

Currently Council works well with Destination Riverland to ensure a co-ordinated presence promoting events for the district through Visitor Information centre websites.

It is recognised as an important space to continue to have a presence in, and we know that whilst digital communication methods are constantly changing they are effective ways of communicating with different target groups of visitors.

As local government we also need to ensure we have the people in place who provide services that fulfil any digital commitment in a way that is aligned to an overall strategy for communication. Social media is 24/7, whereas Council is staffed 9-5 and we need to ensure that we can match any tools we use with the resources we have.

The other aspect is that having both VIC’s managed as a team allows for greater consistency and efficiency in the delivery of digital communication in the future.

Council has committed to continue its web presence in the first instance and to work with other organisations who have web/social media presence until a more expansive strategy can be implemented.

9.  Question asker had experience in working in a VICs and raised concerns about traffic and longer vehicles having  room to turn;  fresh drinking water should be available from the RV Park; QR codes should be on signage and social media to assist visitors.

Response:

Turning room for longer vehicles and RV facilities has been identified as a challenge for the Waikerie township in the Masterplan for the Waikerie CBD. Larger vehicle parking, a dump point and fresh drinking water is already available in Councils RV park within the CIVIC centre precinct.

The use of QR codes will be incorporated in the promotional plan for the VIC and on relevant signage.

10.  Question asker praised the current proprietor for her work and dedication to Waikerie and how she has encouraged people into Waikerie – she’s been an asset to Waikerie; she has publicly resigned and stated she will not continue; opportunity to move forward with a new direction for tourism in Waikerie.

Response:

Agreed, it also unknown if Council could again find someone that has been so available, constantly present and committed.  

Given the proprietors decision it is agreed it is ideal time to review visitor information services and the future expectations and trends.

11.  Question asker noted technology is important but face-to-face and being able to talk with people is very importance to visitors; good to be able to give out maps and guides and explain where to go and what to see.

Response:

Agree. We understand the importance of having face to face communication as we know this is important to a large proportion of our current visitors. 

12.  Question asker wondered if the Civic Centre be open 7 days to cover accreditation? Face-to-face and brochures are still important and easier to read than on a mobile device.

Response:

Yes, the Civic Centre will be open 7 days and will meet the required opening hours for accreditation.

13.  Question asker wondered if there will there be a designated staff member? Will staff have sufficient time to service visitors e.g. locals borrowing books vs. visitors? Raised concerns regarding location, clear visibility and appeal for visitors; will there be sufficient parking and toilets?

Response:

Yes. The intended resourcing model will have a designated staff member Monday to Friday and will be supported by staff currently in the CIVIC Centre and other staff over the weekend to get 7 day coverage.

Staff will be available to assist with answering visitor enquiries, provide maps, guides and brochures to assist visitors to enjoy their stay. Designated tourism staff will be supported by other council staff within the Civic Centre. Basic changes will be made externally to ensure the building can be seen effectively and a signage audit is in the process of being completed.

14.  Question asker wondered how will the community be engaged in the future as there are concerns regarding communication to date? the RWCC had to instigate this meeting and they would like to work in cohesion not splinter groups; What is the next step?

Response:

As noted throughout the presentation, the most important focus for Council at the moment is:

Recruiting staff;

Setting up the CIVIC Centre to provide accredited services from; and

Preparing to advertise for expressions of interest in providing a Visitor Information Outlet on the Sturt highway.

These tasks need to take precedence over further community consultation, however when we do seek further feedback, Council will be looking for community feedback on an ongoing hub based service model, and will be open to hearing about other structured and specified alternatives that can achieve defined outcomes for Waikerie (these will be specified in the community consultation process).

A structured process will be designed for Council to consider prior to seeking further community feedback.

Administration
Principal Office - Loxton
29 East Terrace
Branch Office - Waikerie
Strangman Road
Visitor Information Centres
Loxton
On the Roundabout - Bookpurnong Terrace
Waikerie District Visitor Information Centre
Strangman Road, Waikerie
Libraries
Loxton:
East Terrace
Waikerie
Strangman Road
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