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There is no question, recent visitor statistics for the Goulburn River Valley area, encompassing Shepparton and surrounding shires, are tracking in a positive direction.
But a couple of figures within the otherwise fairly promising trends should raise concerns and questions.
Among the more encouraging findings included the Goulburn River Valley region experiencing almost 950000 domestic overnight visitors last financial year: a 37 per cent increase on the previous year.
An estimated $231 million was spent by these visitors across the region, amounting to about $113 a night on average.
This constituted a 1.2 per cent jump in market share of visitors to regional Victoria.
But the region received just 6.3 per cent of visitors and 4.8 per cent of nights in regional Victoria last financial year.
No doubt a variety of factors are at play here.
However, it has to be alarming how few tourists appear to be coming by train.
The most concerning figure in this latest release of statistics from the National Visitor Survey has to be the finding just one per cent of domestic overnight visitors came to the region by rail last financial year.
Similarly, 97 per cent of domestic day trip travellers to the region last financial year came by car.
This must be of concern given the efforts being made locally to lobby for improved services, but moreover to make sure visitors arriving by train are well accommodated.
Discussions have started at Greater Shepparton City Council about developing the Shepparton railway station precinct into a more accessible place for visitors.
A master plan was earlier this year endorsed, highlighting the construction of a walkway overpass, development of food and refreshment options in the station’s surrounds.
The plan’s central aims were creating an improved connection between the station and the city, making sure connections were in place so visitors could easily and conveniently move from the station, through the central business district, to points of interest.
Will these efforts be for nothing, if only a marginal number of travellers actually arrive by train to Shepparton, if the numbers are to be believed.
There is no getting around the station’s less than ideal location and the lack of clarity of the central business district’s orientation in respect to it.
And arguably these plans for developing the usability of the station precinct could improve the likelihood of rail visitation to Shepparton.
Depending on how you read the numbers, it could either reflect poorly on the quality of rail services in the region or reflect commuter behaviours.
But the shortage of of visitors coming by train should be looked at more closely during conversations aimed at attracting more visitors to the region and more rail services.
This article first appeared on www.sheppnews.com.au
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