Commercial operators ready to bridge the gap

Commercial operators ready to bridge the gap

Both Geeveston and Huonville look set to have ongoing visitor information services, with commercial operators ready to step into the gap left by Huon Valley Council after it announced that it would permanently close the council operated centres in both towns late last week.

Jackman brothers, Mark and Scott, who are currently developing the old Pettits site at South- bridge as the Huon Flash Packers accommodation complex, said that they would dedicate part of the reception area to a retail and visitor information space, while Tahune Adventures managing director Ken Stronach said that he is open to discussions with council about how his organisation can take over the visitor information space at the Geeveston Town Hall.

Mark Jackman said that the Huon Valley cannot be left without visitor information services.

“There are too many tourism based businesses in the Valley that are relying on visitor information,” said Mr Jackman.

“We need the place to be vibrant, not only for us, but for the little place at Dover, the little place at Cygnet.

“It needs to happen soon, we need to be ready to go when restrictions start to lift, otherwise we’ll miss the boat.”

Mr Jackman said that the accommodation side of the new Huon Flash Packer business, which will provide accommodation for up to 150 visitors and has so far cost $1.95 million, is set to open on September 1, but they plan to have a retail and visitor information space operable by July 1.

“This will be a big plus for our tourism industry as it starts to revive itself after the problems of the last three months,” he said.

“Our visitor information services will cater for all areas from Huonville to Cygnet, Franklin, Geeveston, Dover and Bruny Island.”

The site, just two kilometres south of Huonville, has a slip lane for safe access and ample room to park and turn caravans and campers, with 54 concreted parking spaces due to be completed within the next month.

There will also be on-site public toilet facilities available for visitors.

The Jackmans hope that they will be able to offer employment to some of the local staff that have lost their jobs due to the centres’ closure, so that the important knowledge base that has been built up over many years is not lost to the sector.

“We will be picking up the business left from the closing of the two centres, it will be run by the private sector and we see this as a real plus.

Scott, left, and Mark Jackman hope to have a visitor information service operating by July 1, at their Huon Flash Packers development south of Huonville.

“Our site is in the right place to help our tourism industry that has been on its knees for the past few months.”

Tahune Adventures managing director and Destination Southern Tasmania board member Ken Stronach said that, when Tahune Adventures had re- opened in March following the repair and recovery efforts after the Riveaux Road bushfires, he had been forced to withdraw permission for the Geeveston Visitor Information Centre to sell Airwalk tickets due to the effect that the volume of commissions going through there was having on his bottom line.

He said that, with the council considering a variety of operating models to mitigate the financial losses that the centre was incurring, he had told various councillors that he would be happy to talk about his organisation taking over the centre.

“I also acknowledge the fact that it’s a very important building for the local community and it’s a great gathering point for community events,” said Mr Stronach.

“There is a great feeling in Geeveston that it is their building and I wouldn’t want, in any way shape or form, to threaten that.”

Mr Stronach said that he would utilise a small area for visitor information services and a reduced area for retailing local products, and he hoped that artists and artisans, such as John Osborne and Ross Patston-Gill would continue to utilise the centre as well.

“I think it will be very important to have it re- opened, because it does bring a lot of people into the town and I would be very happy to be involved in that and any discussions around that,” said Mr Stronach.

“Volunteer operated visitor information centres are very difficult to maintain, in terms of all the hours that they need to operate and finding a volunteer base that is well versed in the local area.

“I think it will have to be some form of commercial operator to allow it to open the hours necessary to benefit the town and benefit tourists coming to the area.”