Changes to Visitor Services with Wonthaggi VIC to close

Bass Coast Shire Council will close its Wonthaggi Visitor Information Centre (VIC) on 30 June 2016 following a recent service review.

The independent review undertaken last year is part of Council’s commitment to a culture of continuous improvement and review of processes and practices to ensure services are efficient, relevant and meet the needs of our community.

This has required a series of ongoing service reviews with six Council service areas reviewed per year. The service review proposes changes to the VIC network which identifies over $3 million in savings over the next 10 years. The current network is made up of four VICs located in Newhaven, Cowes, Inverloch and Wonthaggi.

The VIC network has recently been recognised for its industry best practice by winning the Victorian Tourism Award for Visitor Services; however, service reviews are not about performance. In general, service reviews are designed to determine the level of service we will provide and the most appropriate strategic business model to provide that service.

Each of these reviews provides Council with opportunities to identify savings and improvements.

Bass Coast Mayor, Cr Jordan Crugnale, said Wonthaggi VIC services the lowest number of visitors with the highest cost per visitor within the network, therefore prompting a need to review the level of services provided in Wonthaggi.

“The volume of visitor services being delivered out of the Wonthaggi Centennial Centre and the capacity of the building makes it difficult to justify continuing the service,” Cr Crugnale said.

“Unfortunately, the fixed infrastructure costs per visitor of delivering the service are more than twice that of the other Centres and it is not sustainable. Costs per visitor to our VIC’s are on average $4.84 per visitor, at Wonthaggi it is $9.22. Our VIC network welcomes 233,948 visitors per annum, but Wonthaggi VIC receives only 20,098 of these.”

Council will now engage with local businesses and the community to find a suitable use for the Wonthaggi Centennial Centre building, as well as identify an alternative delivery method for visitor services within Wonthaggi.

Other changes identified include the implementation of ‘shared service’ customer delivery models for Cowes and Inverloch VICs.

Bass Coast Shire Council CEO, Mr Paul Buckley PSM, said this will see Cowes integrate Customer Service and Visitor Services. Customer Service at Inverloch, which is currently delivered through the Inverloch Library, will be merged with Hub operations and Visitor Services.

“Inverloch and Cowes will continue to operate and offer visitor services, but with a closer operational tie to existing customer service operations,” Mr Buckley said.

“This does not reduce the service in either VIC or customer service, but just allow them to operate more efficiently.”

Identifying an appropriate alternate use for the Wonthaggi Centennial Centre and integrating customer service and visitor services at Cowes and Inverloch is estimated to save Council up to $330,000 per year, including a reduction of one full time staffing position.

Phillip Island Visitor Information Centre in Newhaven will continue to operate as is, with additional investment in technology and staffing to assure its status as the ‘flagship’ of the network.

The Service Review Program is designed to find operational efficiencies and innovations to deliver services to the community in accordance with the Council Plan 2013-2017 and Long Term Financial Plan.

Mr Buckley also emphasised that the service reviews were not about performance.

“In general, service reviews are designed to determine the level of service we will provide and the most appropriate strategic business model to provide that service.”