$174m Princetown-Nirranda South coast plan to boost eco-tourism

A tourism plan could generate $254 million in extra visitor spending along the Great Ocean Road and 2300 jobs in two decades.

A tourism plan could generate $254 million in extra visitor spending along the Great Ocean Road and 2300 jobs in two decades.

A DRAFT masterplan for the 28-kilometre coastline between Princetown and Nirranda South proposes investment of about $174 million over 20 years to boost tourism and protect the environment.

It sets out improvements for the townships of Princetown, Port Campbell and Peterborough to better link with coastal parks and to improve visitor facilities at Loch Ard Gorge, the Twelve Apostles, Bay of Islands and other famous landmarks to world-class standards.

The plan warns of a five per cent drop in visitation numbers to the coastal strip by 2034 if masterplan improvements are not undertaken, but predicts potential for a 38 per cent uplift if private investment is attracted to help lure tourists beyond the Twelve Apostles. 

It estimates the plan could generate $254 million in extra visitor spending along the Great Ocean Road and 2300 jobs in two decades. 

“To do nothing is not an option,” the plan says. 

“Increased visitor pressure, evolving trends and ageing visitor infrastructure being undercut by erosion require a new approach.”

Recommendations include an extra 330 rooms in resorts, hotels, motels and backpacker hostels; about 200 eco-lodge rooms; park-and-ride hubs at Glenample, Port Campbell and Peterborough; visitor “pods” and “experience centres” in the townships rather than a single large centre; links between the new Twelve Apostles trail and visitor sites and  a hinterland touring route.

The document has already been through four periods of public consultation and now has been released for a final round of scrutiny until October 19, after which it will be fine-tuned for government approval.

State Environment and Climate Change Minister Ryan Smith said more than 2.6 million people visited the narrow stretch of coastline annually, but few stayed longer than half a day and many left only an average of 18 cents in the region’s economy.

“The masterplan will help grow those figures by improving the experience for visitors and will strengthen the local economy through sustainable tourism opportunities,” he said.

According to the draft masterplan, the proposed measures broke with a tradition of promoting a mega-project promising to be the silver bullet to change visitation patterns in one go. “Visitors place demands on infrastructure and environment, but leave little behind by way of contribution to the regional economy,” the plan says.

“The target market is a broad group labelled ‘experience seekers’. They are adventurous and self-motivated, love the outdoors and are ecologically minded.”

The plan highlighted a widening gap in what visitors looked for and what they got in accommodation, local produce and travel logistics, which led to low returns for the local economy.

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