Eden Visitor Information Centre's move to wharf welcomed by board, 'will provide more exposure'

Eden Visitor Information Centre manager Claire Mudaliar and Gail Ward of the Eden Tourism Inc board outside the Snug Cove Welcome Centre development.
Eden Visitor Information Centre manager Claire Mudaliar and Gail Ward of the Eden Tourism Inc board outside the Snug Cove Welcome Centre development.

Eden Visitor Information Centre (EVIC) is scheduled to move in to the new building at Snug Cove in February 2021 and its board says the move will assist the centre in remaining viable, given declining visitation to information centres nationwide in recent years.

The Eden wharf extension was completed in 2019, 10 years after its initial infrastructure application was made.

EVIC negotiated with Port Authority NSW earlier this year to take up space in the new welcome centre at Snug Cove, with community information sessions taking place at the time.

Recently-appointed EVIC manager Clair Mudaliar said taking on a five-year lease with Port Authority in the prominent location at the wharf will increase the centre's ability to survive.

"We feel very fortunate to have been offered a stunning new building which will be a drawcard to entice people to visit us," Ms Mudaliar said.

"It is a fabulous chance to upgrade from the existing severely outdated facility to a modern and iconic centre.

"We don't have foot traffic in our current location and it's frustrating for us many people don't see the battle we are fighting just to stay open," she said.

Feasibility studies conducted by Tourism Research Australia (TRA) show information centres across Australia have faced declining numbers over recent years.

EVIC alone has witnessed a 25 per cent drop in visitation in the previous five years, equating to 12,393 less people through its doors.

Current recommendations from TRA are to position centres where people already go, to encourage more foot traffic and increase visitation.

According to a survey of visitors to the area conducted by Sapphire Coast Tourism, the Eden wharf is the most-visited attraction on the Sapphire Coast.

Research by TRA indicates the way people access information, plan and book when travelling has changed, with only 4.4 per cent of travellers entering visitor information centres.

"Tourism is completely different now to 20 years ago, everyone makes bookings online," Ms Mudaliar said.

"The opportunity to be located at the wharf will provide exposure to a potential 350,000 visitors to the wharf area, not including cruise ship passengers."

Eden Chamber of Commerce and a team of volunteers stepped in to save EVIC when Bega Valley Shire Council pulled out of information centre operations across the shire in 2006 and is a non-profit organisation run by a board of volunteers, with the main sources of funding to sustain operations being revenue from retail sales and memberships from local businesses. BVSC has continued to support the Centre through funding.

Ms Mudaliar said the welcome centre car park will offer the same number of spaces as are currently available behind the existing EVIC location, and will include caravan spaces in addition to multiple bus bays already existing nearby.

"We're thinking of the future, we're planning ahead," Ms Mudaliar said.

"Eden is poised and in a great position, there's a lot of money being spent on the town and a lot of people working hard to make things happen - it's sad there's often a focus on the negative.

"Of course we are greatly concerned about the recent evictions in the older building at the wharf, which included a number of EVIC members, but we are all working together for resolutions and I feel confident something positive will happen as things progress."

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