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Reading between the lines on Council closing Visitor Centres: Just ask a local

The Beagle Editor,

The recent Council item in The Beagle outlining the impending closure of Eurobodalla Visitor Information Centres (VICs) has drawn a range of contrasting comments, as befits an important Shire issue requiring informed consideration, management and implementation.

One aspect not mentioned to date is the source of Council’s decision to close the VICs. The rationale was provided by the Council-commissioned consultancy report “Eurobodalla Visitor Servicing Review - December 2019" – (Read it HERE) prepared by DMS (Destination Marketing Store). In its 44 pages, this report exceeds the requisite quota of buzzword bingo hits, extols a high tech driven approach to tourism, and yet is rather light on regarding any type of detailed data analysis. From the outset the report has a clearly articulated agenda with a bolded heading “The Current Eurobodalla Model Is Broken” appearing on page 3. The report goes on to deliver a predictable recommendation that clears the way for Council to sell off or lease out the current VICs, as well as highlighting the numerous additional services that DMS can provide to Council as it proceeds down this path.

Whether this 44 page analysis with a clearly signalled intention to do away with the VICs is a sufficient basis for Council’s decision is questionable, but what is more interesting is whether Council has actually followed the report’s recommendations. Page 7 of the December 2019 report states :

“It is our strong recommendation that any changes to your current visitor servicing model are introduced as a pilot study. The thing most people find difficult when dealing with change is not embracing the new. It’s letting go of the old.

The pilot study would be designed to provide a ‘soft’ launch for a new service delivery model and ensures there is a period of transition from the old to the new. A period that allows ESC to address stakeholder feedback and fine-tune individual elements. It also demonstrates that Council is working collaboratively with the community rather than implementing a fait accompli.”

This raises the issue of whether the recommended “pilot study” was ever undertaken by Council, and if so what were the outcomes. The Eurobodalla community should be informed what measurement and evaluation criteria were applied in this pilot study. If no pilot study was undertaken (or undertaken but not reported), then it would seem that Council is perpetrating the “fait accompli” error foreshadowed in Council’s own commissioned report.

The fundamental question is whether Council’s desperate search for additional funds to feed the BBRAALC financial “black hole” has affected its judgement, and generated a sub-optimal strategy for Eurobodalla visitor services, which form a key element of the local economy.

Only time will tell.

Name & Address supplied

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