The Great Ocean Road’s rich hinterland is still one of global tourism’s best kept secrets if the findings of a group of international student researchers are anything to go by.
More than 90 Monash University masters students from the international sustainable tourism program were in Timboon on Friday as part of a study tour of the region.
Monash Univeristy’s associate director of Australia and international tourism research Joseph Cheer said there was a perception that the Twelve Apostles was the only attraction in the region.
“There’s a lack of awareness of what’s out here but also this perception that it’s a day trip rather than somewhere you stay,” he said.
Dr Cheer said Monash was working alongside the Twelve Apostles Tourism and Business Association on a research project examining visitor perceptions along the Great Ocean Road.
“We want to paint a picture of the tourism industry over a period of time because then that research can inform decision making and development,” he said.
“One of the reasons I’m bringing them out here is this gives them a really good example of sustainable tourism in action but it has many of the challenges that regional places face when they try to develop tourism.
While the Twelve Apostles are a global icon, the students said there was a lack of information about what lay beyond the Great Ocean Road.
“It’s sold to visitors as just a road,” Michelle Bloch, from Columbia, said.
Ms Bloch said the natural beauty and unique businesses such as those along the Twelve Apostles Gourmet Trail would attract people looking for an authentic experience.
“There is so much beauty around, you should really concentrate on the strength of the area and build on that, rather than saying we need more hotels or we need more bathrooms, there is already enough,” she said.
“A lot of international visitors are looking for unique and authentic experiences and that’s what you have here.”
Balder Lysen, from the Netherlands, was on his second trip to the Great Ocean Road and said it was “lacking” compared to other global tourist hot spots.
“It’s a bit lacking. there’s not much to see and do, there’s a bit of information about the area, about the Apostles. There’s nothing there about what you can do in the area. That is a wasted opportunity I think,” he said.
“If you knew it was here you would book five or six days to stay here and look around.”
12 Apostles Tourism and Business Association president David Pope said the visit provided invaluable information.
“At industry level here… getting independent third-party advice, the value that brings to our businesses, we can’t put a value on that. It’s very exciting potentially what advice and ideas they can bring to the table to help shape the way we can do business better,” he said.