BUMPER SUMMER: Warrnambool is becoming a popular holiday destination for international visitors with data revealing a jump in summer visitors.
David McMahon, the city’s visitor economy manager, said 41,000 people passed through the doors of the Warrnambool Visitor Information Centre in the summer peak. He said this was an 8 per cent increase on the same period – Boxing Day to the end of the Australia Day weekend – last year.
Mr McMahon said operators in the area had reported bumper summers.
“The backpackers’ have had record numbers, the caravan parks have had record numbers – Warrnambool tourism operators as a whole have had a very good season,” he said.
One of the drivers of the increase is the popularity of the south-west to Chinese visitors.
“The Chinese market has grown 17.1 per cent, which is fantastic for Victorian tourism,” Mr McMahon said.
The growing popularity of the Great Ocean Road has meant traditional hot spots have sold out and visitors have made Warrnambool their base.
Mr McMahon said in addition to the Twelve Apostles, Chinese visitors loved exploring rural areas and getting up close with wildlife and farm animals.
The region has seen a huge influx over the past few days, with visitors flocking to the Great Ocean Road to celebrate the Chinese New Year.
“We’ve had an influx of hundreds and hundreds of Chinese tourists coming here to experience everything we have to offer,” he said.
Mr McMahon said the council was confident the summer period was the busiest on record. “Warrnambool is achieving great results,” he said.
“We are hopeful that three things have improved – visitor experience, length of stay and increased spend.”
Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism general manager Liz Price said there was huge growth predicted in the number of visitors from China in the coming years.
She said a number of south-west operators were marketing their businesses in international markets, with great success.
Ms Price said the breadth of landscape in the south-west made it a popular destination. The tourism board also had plans to target Chinese students studying in Australia. She said there were about 400,000 students and most were visited by family members from China while completing their tertiary education.
Warrnambool mayor Robert Anderson said the city had broad appeal – with a relaxed country vibe and beautiful beaches.
“There’s no doubt visitors are venturing further (down this way),” Councillor Anderson said.