Halls Gap Zoo bucking domestic tourism downturns

In Victoria

From the Stawell Times

HALLS GAP – The Halls Gap Tourist Information Centre has reported strong tourist numbers for the Christmas and New Year Holiday period.

Nigel Cross, Tourism Officer at the Halls Gap Visitor Information Centre said the figure of visitors was comparable with the last few years.

“We actually had two consecutive days where over 1000 people were served for the first time this holiday period,” he said.

That was on December 28 and 29 when over 800 domestic visitors made enquiries and up to 200 international visitors did the same.

“The second and third (of January) also saw strong numbers being recorded,” Mr Cross said.

Between Boxing Day 2012 and January 3 2013 a total of 6394 people visited the information centre.

This figure is up on last year’s total of 6057 people but down on the overall figure of 7015 reached in the 2010/2011 holiday period.

The international figure of over 1324 was higher than last season with the majority having a European background.

The number of visitors are manually counted as having been served in the Halls Gap Visitor Information Centre.

Tim Walsh of Tim’s Place Backpacking Hostel said it has been as good as any other Christmas period.

“In fact I would go so far as to say the last six months of 2012 have been my best six months to date,” he said.

Mr Walsh who has been in the industry for 19 years said he believed it was due to a mix of reasons.

“The GFC (Global Financial Crisis) has lead to people having to turn to the budget market for holidays and time away,” he said.

“That means in my industry, the value for money industry things are going relatively well.

“Australians themselves make up about 10 per cent of the market, but that is growing due to the economic climate.

“From about September-October until the end of May is the where we fluctuate from being half to completely full.”

Mr Walsh said the demographics have changed in the almost two decades he has spent in the industry.

“Fifteen years ago it was mainly your English backpackers, then came the Dutch, but today it is the Germans along with an increase in Asians,” he said.

“That really reflects the economy of those countries.”

Mr Walsh said people generally stay for two or three days and those who don’t often want to extend their stay.

Johanna Peet, Manager of the Hall’s Gap Caravan Park said it seemed quieter this year due to the hot weather.

“The fire warnings really keep some people away,” she said.

“You go to a teller and you see that you are in a fire risk zone and that really scares people away.”

Mrs Peet said while Christmas and New Year was popular with families, overseas tourists and elderly couples made up the numbers throughout January.

“December was quiet, but January definitely picked up,” she said.

“There doesn’t seem to be as much money about so people have cut back from seven day holidays to four or five day holidays.”

Patricia Granger, Owner of Coolas Ice Creamery said despite it looking like their wasn’t as many campers in the camp ground, their takings have exceeded last year.

“From about 10am Boxing Day things really take off,” she said.

“It is really frantic, we have five or six staff on to meet the demand of queues out the door.”

She said she didn’t think the prolonged warm weather contributed to a rise in sales.

“People seem to actually stay away on the really ultra hot days, but I have noticed a lot more overseas tourists this year,” Mrs Granger said.

“The weekends far out way mid-week for us, we rely heavily on people taking day trips and a lot of people seem to be doing that this year.”

When it comes to the most popular flavours Mrs Granger said it usually depends on a persons age.

“Rainbow has always been a kids favourite, bubblegum is also very popular among younger people,” she said.

“Rum and Raisin and Ginger for people over 50 while many of the chocolate flavours and stairway to heaven are generally favoured.

“We will be looking forward to a busy period ahead with the Australia Day long weekend and Jazz Festival in February.”

She said with the flooding now behind Halls Gap it is good to see a return to high visitor numbers and friendly customers.

“With next to all of the walks now open it is nice to see people coming back.”

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