A significant hike in domestic tourism to the Shepparton area — almost 30 per cent — last year is welcome.
And it seems efforts in broadening the city’s events mix, especially focusing on areas such as food and wine, appear to be paying dividends.
Any movement in a positive direction is to be commended here.
Greater Shepparton City Council seems to have been redoubling efforts on promoting the ‘‘many great things’’ the city and broader region has to offer during the past couple of years.
And by and large much of this funding seems to have been well spent.
Domestic overnight visitors in particular rose 65 per cent to 418000 for 2017.
According to new data, these visitors spent an estimated $103million in the region, an average of about $111 per night.
Meanwhile, domestic day trips jumped 16 per cent to about 804000 for the year; each of these spending an average $90 in the region.
These are hugely valuable numbers, most visibly for the hospitality sector, but with clear associated economic benefit through many other businesses across the region.
Most curiously, in the National Visitor Survey results for last year’s tourism to the area, is the significant drop off in overseas visitors.
A 40 per cent reduction in overseas visitors and a 50 per cent drop in the nights they spend here is a fairly hefty loss of visitation.
The reasons behind this are not clear and not reserved to one or even a few factors.
And much of it is unlikely to be in the hands of key tourism stakeholders in the region.
While few clues lie in the new data, it would perhaps be constructive to, where possible, look into the factors at play here. It would be a shame for such positive movement in domestic visitation to be undone by a shortfall in overseas tourism.
One of the most pertinent figures in the data is the proportion of visitors that drive to the Shepparton area for a holiday: more than 90 per cent.
There is a clear link here between the regularity, convenience and quality of the Shepparton line train service and the proportion of visitors to the city who take the train to the city.
Greater Shepparton City Council’s tourism department has stressed it believes this is holding back additional potential visitors to the region.
Securing even the eight return services per day between Melbourne and Shepparton, and importantly running under two hours each way, is more vital than ever.
We often hear about how the city’s train service is holding back the ability for the city to grow and develop at the rate it can.
But one wonders how significant it is impacting on the choices of would-be travellers to Shepparton?
Perhaps the better question might be, how many more tourists could Shepparton welcome if a better train service was available?