Increased tourism focus for Greater Shepparton

By Thomas Moir

Economic impact from major events in Greater Shepparton might have decreased last financial year, but attendance was up.

And those tasked with bringing big events to Shepparton say they are working towards more diverse and longer events for the city.

They are also aiming to ensure Greater Shepparton is attracting not just event visitation, but also stand-alone tourism.

The direct and indirect spend from major events in the 2017-18 financial year was about $44million, according to Greater Shepparton City Council figures; down on the about $50million economic output from the previous financial year.

But it remains on an upward trajectory from about $36million generated in the 2014-15 year.

Major event attendance was up from about 305000 in 2016-17 to almost 352000 last financial year.

The number of major events financially supported by council barely changed, while council supported about 30 fewer major events.

The number of ‘‘bed nights’’ generated also dropped from about 110500 to 103800 last financial year.

Council’s economic development manager Anthony Nicolaci said while event attendees and visitors from outside the city were up, bed nights and length of stay were slightly down on the previous year.

Mr Nicolaci said the council was moving efforts towards diversifying and securing longer events.

‘‘In reviewing the 2017-18 events profile, a key focus for the 2019 major events calendar has been on securing and acquiring longer events as that helps build greater economic prosperity and leverage opportunities for businesses and industries,’’ he said.

‘‘The 2019 calendar will see a number of new large-scale week-long events grace the region.

‘‘In addition the events program is also looking to further diversify its offering with more of a focus on establishing new arts, culture, food and music events.’’

Mr Nicolaci said the council was continuing to work in this space and further announcements would be made in the near future.

‘‘Our forecast looks like the 2019 major events calendar will see significant growth across all areas, which will be a great outcome for local business,’’ he said.

Mr Nicolaci said a ‘‘changing perception of Greater Shepparton as a place to visit’’ was being observed.

‘‘Traditionally our growth has been in events ... But we’re now starting to see a shift,’’ he said.

Pointing to the forthcoming new SAM and MOVE museums, Mr Nicolaci said transforming tourism into emerging industry marked a positive trend.

Overseas visitors up

While it appears to ebb and flow, broadly speaking international visitation to Greater Shepparton has had a slight increase across the past five years.

International Visitor Survey data from the past five years to each September indicates a five-year increase of just more than 10 per cent.

This marks an annual average growth of about 2.5 per cent, from the year to September 2014 to YE September last year.

It was as low as 8700 (YE September 2014-15), and as high as 16000 (YE September 2015-16).

Greater Shepparton City Council economic development manager Anthony Nicolaci said these ‘‘seem to be on target’’.

‘‘Regional Victoria has actually had a 1.4 per cent decrease in international overnight visitors in the YE September 2018 — so we have bucked the trend for regional Victoria as a whole,’’ he said, citing the about 25 per cent increase the city experienced.

But conversely, international visitation had decreased about nine per cent from July 2017 to June last year.

Mr Nicolaci said council would continue to do work in this space.

Domestic visits increase

Domestic tourism to Shepparton is broadly trending upwards.

In the year to June last year, the city welcomed 380000 domestic overnight visitors; an 11.6 per cent jump on the previous year.

These visitors spent more than 960000 nights in the region, a 26 per cent increase on the previous year.

The average visitor stay was about 2 nights, a slight increase.

According to data sourced from the National Visitor Survey, the Shepparton region received a 2.4 per cent market share of visitors (up to 0.2 per cent) to regional Victoria, and 2.2 per cent (up by 0.4 per cent) share of nights.

Close to half of Shepparton’s domestic visitation were visiting friends and relatives in the region. More than half stayed with friends or relatives in the region.

Close to 90 per cent drove to the region, with about three per cent each arriving by aircraft and rail.

More than 80 per cent of visitors came from elsewhere in Victoria, a 13 per cent jump on the previous year, while more than a quarter of visitors were 25 to 34 years of age.

According to the data, ‘‘visitors spent an estimated $74million in the region — an average of $77 per night’’.