By Jackson Russell
A new plan is set to shape the future of Mitchell Shire’s tourism industry over the next four years, including a campaign to welcome visitors back once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
Mitchell Shire councillors unanimously adopted the four-year Tourism and Visitor Economy Plan at its August 17 council meeting.
The plan provides a framework to guide development of the tourism and visitor economy within the shire over the next four years and includes a detailed analysis of the visitor economy, highlighting strengths and growth opportunities.
Research in 2017-18 found Mitchell Shire welcomes 550,000 visitors each year, with figures increasing year-on-year until the end of last year.
Mitchell Shire’s visitor economy generates about $110 million in economic output and supports 638 jobs within the shire, making tourism the seventh-largest employing sector in the shire.
Included in the plan is several actions across 34 different strategies and eight focus areas.
Notably listed among marketing activities is the potential for council to develop a ‘Welcome Back to Mitchell’ post-COVID-19 marketing promotion to entice visitors back to the shire.
Supported by tourism specialist Destination Yellow, the plan was informed by numerous interviews, workshops and online surveys with businesses, operators, community groups and other visitor economy stakeholders.
The plan was also developed with direct consultation with the Taungurung Land and Waters Council.
North ward councillor Rhonda Sanderson thanked everyone who took part in the consultation of the plan.
“It’s crucial that council supports our growing tourism industry to create more local jobs and attract outside spending into our economy,” she said.
“It’s great to have this new plan, particularly which will be useful once the state moves out of COVID-19 restrictions and we can welcome visitors back.
“I know our local tourism businesses are struggling and, as a council, we will do everything we can to support them and having a plan like this always helps us to focus.”
North ward councillor Bill Chisholm said the plan was a ‘long time coming’.
“This program works right across the shire with every town and every smaller community. It’s a real boost, if this takes off, to inject new money into the shire. I look forward to the success of this,” he said.