Thousands expected to flock to Great Ocean Road for Chinese New Year

An image from the Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism and Port Campbell Visitor Information Centre campaign to showcase Port Campbell to Chinese visitors.
An image from the Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism and Port Campbell Visitor Information Centre campaign to showcase Port Campbell to Chinese visitors.

The Port Campbell region is rolling out the welcome mat for one of its busiest periods – Chinese New Year.

Up to 11,000 visitors per day are likely to descend on the Twelve Apostles and surrounds for the Lunar New Year festival.

Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism general manager Liz Price said the number of Chinese visitors to the region was growing.

“It’s the peak period for Chinese travel,” she said. 

“Chinese visitors represent 17.8 per cent of international overnight visits to the region.”

She said the number of day trips from Chinese visitors was significantly higher, while those visiting the Great Ocean Road were also venturing further afield.

“Anecdotally, we’re seeing them go further to places like Port Fairy and the Grampians,” Ms Price said.

Warrnambool was also enjoying the benefits of increased numbers of international tourists, she said.

Around Port Campbell, locals are hoping to give Chinese visitors a uniquely Australian experience as they ring in the Year of the Dog.

Port Campbell Visitor Information Centre co-ordinator Mark Cuthell said a photo shoot organised by the visitor centre and Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism helped capture the town through the eyes of a Chinese visitor.

Port Campbell Visitor Information Centre manager Mark Cuthell with Chinese visitors during the 2017 Chinese New Year celebrations.

Port Campbell Visitor Information Centre manager Mark Cuthell with Chinese visitors during the 2017 Chinese New Year celebrations.

“We’re not about fireworks and the pop and sizzle that they will see in Melbourne. It’s the simple things that are our point of difference. Throwing a frisbee or playing cricket on the beach is an exotic novelty for someone who lives in a highly urbanised environment,” he said.

Mr Cuthell said visitor information centre staff would be out in force 

“We hang decorations along with a lot of local businesses and also have a mobile happy new year sign that we take around. We set that up on the beach and base ourselves there as a mobile information service,” he said.

“We make use of our fully translated website, visit12apostles.com.au, on an iPad to support visitors as required and as a means to show people they’ve got language support in the area.

Information centre staff will also use some basic greetings in Chinese, like “happy new year”, to help welcome visitors. 

“It breaks the ice and helps the visitor relax and start to communicate,” Mr Cuthell said.

“It shows we’ve made an effort and respect that they’ve come a long way to a region that has very few Chinese speakers.”

Parks Victoria figures show 11,000 visitors made the trip to the Twelve Apostles during Chinese New Year in 2017.

Of the 2.6 million visitors to the Twelve Apostles each year, one in seven comes from China.

Traffic management helps cope with visitor influx

Traffic management is in place at the Twelve Apostles precinct to help cope with the influx of visitors across Chinese New Year.

Traffic management at the Twelve Apostles, Gibson Steps and Loch Ard Gorge includes extra parking, speed limit cuts, traffic controllers and roadside barriers to prevent unsafe parking.

Parks Victoria area chief ranger Michael Smith said traffic management had “proven effective” over the Christmas period.

“Importantly, we’ve seen a reduction in cars parking illegally on the side of the Great Ocean Road, which is dangerous and interrupts the flow of traffic,” he said.

“During busy summer periods, we encourage people to consider visiting during the morning, when traffic around the Twelve Apostles is lighter.”

The traffic management will remain in place until the end of February.

Parks Victoria also has an additional five rangers working in the Port Campbell National Park over summer, including two Mandarin-speaking rangers.

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