Editorial Feb 26th 2021

Welcome to this week’s editorial,

Launching today is the new Visit Batemans Bay website, an initiative of the Batemans Bay Business and Tourism Chamber.

Council voted to permanently close the Batemans Bay Visitor Centre this Sunday, February 28th, 2021 (and Narooma in May) saying that a review of their two Visitor Centres “clearly identify that the current model is broken and there is a shift required to “fish where the fish are feeding” – taking visitor information to where visitors are rather than expecting them to come to the information.”

The “fish where the fish are feeding” reference made by Council in their report was a poor choice of words as it valued our visitors as little more than fish that we can consume. For those who work, and have worked, in the Batemans Bay Visitor Centre and the many who volunteer in the Narooma Visitor Centre the “fish” reference with the added “model is broken” must have hurt for the fetid insult that it was. An insult to those who utilise Visitor Centres and also to the staff who passionately engage with the many visitors who utilise calling in to meet a friendly face, to make that first contact with a region and to learn what might be available or not to be missed. To learn of the closures and to read a consultants report declaring their efforts “broken” came as a kick in the guts and then, to be told they were being replaced by a “social media” campaign that would be aimed at “the fish” on Facebook, Instagram and TikToc added further insult. Fortunately the “non-fish” calling in for broches and maps or some local advice were none the wiser that their old fashioned methods were wasting Council’s time and money.

The Council are also of the opinion, in closing the doors of the Visitor Information Centre, “That authentic, personalised information is king, and contemporary approaches to visitor services engage and enable residents and businesses to share information. Everyone in Eurobodalla can play a role in getting the right information to the right people at the right time.”

Yes, that’s right. Council says “it was time to take information to visitors instead of making visitors travel to information centres, with personal recommendations supported by online information at the forefront.”

So rather than calling in and talking to our passionate, knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff Council suggests that visitors ask locals for recommendations supported by online information. Council also advises, for the benefit of the “non-fish” that they have “also updated print collateral, with six activity-based and five town-based brochures, for the cohort of people who still like information they can grab hold of”.

That “print collateral” will be available at various outlets such as the South Durras Caravan Park if you want to drive up there. Probably on display in Perspex cases that look very similar to the brochure cases the “Non-fish” enjoyed at our once existing Visitor Centres.

In anticipation of the gaping void that will be left by this bold decision by the councillors the Batemans Bay Business and Tourism Chamber have looked at how they might be able to rise to welcome, engage and inform visitors to the Batemans Bay area using a combination of technology (QR Codes) and good old fashioned posters.

The new Visit Batemans Bay website, easily accessed by QR Code or Google search is still in its infancy, however, at its core are the key points of What to See, Where to Stay and What to Do.

The Chamber will continue to add to its new site, taking the two dimensional narrative away from Eurobodalla Tourism, adding their own local and personal touches in addition to developing layers that offer history, walking tours, cycling and kayaking information and all the finer details that visitors come to expect provided at an informed and exuberant Visitor Centre.

From Monday the Visit Batemans Bay website will become the “new” Visitor Centre in an easily accessible format that provides a visitor a welcoming experience and takes them on a path of discovery within the town and the region at a level that pays respect to what they want rather than being treated as a “fish” invited to the region to then be left to flounder through whatever websites Google offers up as they Search for more information.

To ensure everyone is informed and welcomed to the new website posters are being placed in business windows across the CBD and Bay region that have a QR Code to scan. The uptake of QR Codes and the community’s familiarity with them due to Covid has made the engagement process so much easier.

The new website will also be more relevant to the town and region rather and so much more than the current generic page offered by both VisitNSW and Eurobodalla Tourism who do little other than act as a template to serve the Australian Tourism Data Hub.

It is still early days for the Visit Batemans Bay website

(https://www.visitbatemansbay.com.au/) but things are looking promising.

Mogo, Tuross Head, Narooma and Tilba townships have all undertaken a similar initiative, with each celebrating their own town and region. If we do have to forgo our Visitor Centres then we can trust that our visitors are more than capable of finding the most accurate and informative local information from these webpages.

The South Coast Travel Guide, developed by The Beagle, has seen a visitation spike in recent months. This is a good sign that our economy is bouncing back in terms of tourism. By being able to see the pages that our visitors look at, it is clear that our visitors are more than just “fish” looking for selfy-opportunities. Our visitors want rich encounters and it is terrific to see the Batemans Bay Chamber step up and join the other chambers and take control of their own narrative.

Until next—lei