Tourists destined for the Valley

LATROBE Valley’s tourism industry is stronger than ever, with figures showing visitors are flocking to the area.

According to Destination Gippsland’s annual report, there was a 19 per cent increase in tourism numbers to the Valley in the 2014/15 financial year, with 945,000 visitors to the area – the second highest across Gippsland.

Leading the way in tourism was East Gippsland with 1.2 million visitors while overall Gippsland recorded a 2.1 per cent increase over the past 12 months.

Destination Gippsland chief executive Terry Robinson said Latrobe Valley’s 2013/14 figures were historically low, citing a tough year with the Morwell and Aberfeldy fires.

He said this year’s increase was good news for the Valley.

“Latrobe is up this year and in the longer term from 2011 to 2015 (visitation numbers have) grown 12 per cent,” Mr Robinson said.

“This is largely on the back of a strong business market and events program (in the region) and these numbers are strong.”

Highlighting Mount Baw Baw, Mr Robinson said while the popular tourist attraction had a great snow season, many visitors opted to stay in the Valley and travel to the mountain.

Visiting friends and travelling for leisure were other reasons cited for the influx in tourists.

“People underestimate the value of tourism to Latrobe,” Mr Robinson said.

“The figures are a good result in a challenging environment for regional tourism and I am pleased with its growth.”

Latrobe City deputy mayor Sharon Gibson said the results were encouraging.

“We have so many great things to offer here and for people to come and see our great region is exactly what we need,” Cr Gibson said.

She said council had focused on boosting jobs in the region through tourism, with an increase in events including the Water Ski Championships at Lake Narracan slated for March next year.

“(Latrobe Valley hasn’t always been a place visitors have considered and that’s why we need to be on the front foot on the way we change that,” Cr Gibson said.

“The figures show we’re heading in the right direction and that is pleasing to note, but it doesn’t mean we stop now.”