MEETING the expectations of international jetsetters is key to growing visitor numbers along the Great Ocean Road, according to tourism sector figures.
A parliamentary inquiry has heard of the need to invest in eco-tourism projects as busloads of visitors from China and India flock to the Twelve Apostles.
Geelong Otway Tourism executive director Roger Grant said the world-famous landmark remained a major drawcard but visitors were disappointed by the lack of secondary attractions and facilities.
He said eco-tourism was a boom area, but believed the natural beauty of the south-west coast was not being properly utilised.
“We’ve seen a significant change in the country-of-origin of our international visitors,” Mr Grant said.
“China was at number 13 (rank for international visitors) only a few years ago. Now it’s at number five and rising.
“International visitors expect international standards, so we have to respond to these demographic changes.”
Mr Grant said retaining international visitors for overnight stopovers remained a challenge, with many tourists heading by coach or hire car for a day trip to the Twelve Apostles and returning to Melbourne instead of staying the night.
“Increasing yield is important,” Mr Grant said.
“Expanding the timeframe people stay in the region is something we need to look at.
“Day trips mean the bare minimum is being spent along the Great Ocean Road, whereas overnight stopovers in Geelong, Port Campbell, Warrnambool or other destinations means more cash is being spent locally.”
Bothfeet Walking Lodge director Gavin Ronan also made a submission when the committee met in Port Campbell on Friday.
The parliamentary committee is being led by Western Victoria MP David Koch, with the evidence forming part of an in-depth report for cabinet consideration in Spring Street. The report will be tabled mid-next year.
Mr Ronan said political recognition of the tourism sector, especially eco-tourism, needed to be enhanced.
“At a ministerial level, tourism tends to be at the bottom of the pile,” he said.
“There’s no federal minister for tourism in the new (Abbott) government, which is a shame, because you need someone at that level to put the sector’s case across in Canberra.”
Mr Ronan said governments at both a federal and state level had implemented eco-tourism strategies, but had expired and failed to be replaced.
“Our natural assets, like the Twelve Apostles, like other coastal features, are the main reasons why people head to the region,” he said.