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Visitor centres play a crucial role in influencing tourist behaviour

Visitor centres play a crucial role in influencing tourist behaviour
November 18, 2015

Newly released research shows that visitor centres continue to play a crucial role in informing and educating tourists about local areas and tourism products, despite increasing numbers of consumers using digital channels for searching, selecting and booking travel.

The findings come from Tourism Research Australia (TRA) who, in partnership with Tourism WA, contracted Metrix Consulting to research the effectiveness of visitor centres in Western Australia  to assess their impact on visitor behaviour, and how their offering can be improved.

Key messages to emerge from the research included:

• Visitor centre use is driven by situation, not visitor type. Most tourists will stop at visitor centres if they require information, and most stops are pre-planned.
• Tourists most often use a visitor centre when they are a first-time visitor to a location; when they have had insufficient access to information before their arrival; or when they are staying more than one night.
• The most common motivators for stopping at a visitor centre are to access information on attractions, obtain maps or find information on activities.
• Respondents who had not used a visitor centre in the location interviewed, are not rejecting them, as most have used them in the right situation previously.
• Visitor centres make an immediate financial contribution in their local area, and more broadly enhance the quality of visitor experiences and encourage future advocacy by visitors to the region.
• There is a modest positive impact on the length of stay and spend for visitor centre users, particularly in more remote regional locations.
• Western Australian visitor centres are performing well, and the local perspective that staff provide with regard to things to see and places to eat being particularly valued.
• Overall, 94% of respondents using a visitor centre in this study are satisfied with their experience, including 70% very satisfied.

TRA data from the International Visitor Survey (IVS) and National Visitor Survey (NVS) indicates that international visitors (39%) to WA most often use a visitor centre on their trip. Domestic interstate visitors (17%) are nearly twice as likely as intrastate visitors (9%) to use a visitor centre.

The study indicates that visitor centre use is needs based. Commonly, respondents stopped at a visitor centre when they were:

• A first-time visitor to a location
• Unable to access sufficient information on a location before arrival
• Staying at a destination for more than one night.

The Importance of Visitor Centres
The study underlined that visitor centres make an immediate financial contribution in their local area. More broadly, they enhance the quality of visitor experiences and promote future advocacy.
Using data from this research and the IVS and NVS for overnight visitors only, it is estimated that visitor centres generated around $116 million in overnight visitor spend in Western Australia each year.

This is equivalent to approximately 2% of total overnight visitor spend in Western Australia.

Further, the research shows that tourists value the presence of visitor centres and the contribution they make to their visitor experience.

• Nearly all users of visitor centres (95%) reported that the visitor centre was an important part of their overall visitor experience.
• The majority of users of visitor centres (87%) said they knew more about things to see and do in the location as a result of their stop.
• More than eight in ten (84%) indicated that the visitor centre had a positive influence on how they viewed the location.
• Almost three-quarters (74%) heard about an activity through their visitor centre stop, while 70% organised to participate in an activity while at the visitor centre.

Respondents who stopped at a visitor centre were more likely than non-users of these facilities to have visited national and state parks (36% compared with 26%); heritage buildings or sites (30% compared with 23%); museums and art galleries (24% compared with 16%); and/or undertaken an organised tour (20% compared with 12%) in the area visited.

Nearly two in ten (19%) users of visitor centres reported making a booking through the visitor centre. Guided tours were the most common type of booking made.

Overall, 13% of those who used a visitor centre extended their stay in a location as a result. This occurred most often in the Golden Outback (21%) and North West (20%). The average increase in length of stay was two nights.

Depending on the region and visitor centre, the amount of expenditure that survey respondents directly attributed to their visitor centre stop ranged between

The research was conducted through intercept interviews with tourists at selected visitor Centres and major tourism attractions across each of Western Australia’s five tourism  regions between January and May 2015. This provided a sample of 379 users and 350 non-users of visitor centres.

To supplement the intercept interviews, staff at visitor centres across WA collected email addresses from 876 tourists who were sent an online version of the survey. This survey was completed by a further 328 users of visitor centres.

The information in this summary was taken from the full report which is available on request from tourism.research@tra.gov.au.

Click here for more information.

Images: Camping on Rottnest Island (top), the Albany Visitor Centre (middle) and whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef (below).

29th October 2015 - WESTERN AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT COMMITS $20 MILLION TO BUILD SKYWALKS IN THE KALBARRI NATIONAL PARK

31st May 2015 - WESTERN AUSTRALIAN FUNDING TO BOOST TOURISM INFRASTRUCTURE AND REGIONAL VISITOR CENTRES

28th December 2014 - ONLINE BOOKINGS CHALLENGE REGIONAL VISITOR INFORMATION CENTRES

27th November 2014 - TOURISM PRODUCTIVITY MORE IMPORTANT THAN AUSTRALIA’S BRAND

3rd September 2014 - WESTERN AUSTRALIA’S VISITOR CENTRE NETWORK MUST BE REBUILT

6th October 2011 - VISITOR INFORMATION CENTRES ADD VALUE TO SOUTH AUSTRALIAN TOURISM


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We hope that you value the news that we publish so while you're here can we ask for your support?

The news we publish at www.ausleisure.com.au is independent, credible (we hope) and free for you to access, with no pay walls and no annoying pop-up ads.

However, as an independent publisher, can we ask for you to support us by subscribing to the printed Australasian Leisure Management magazine - if you don't already do so.

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