Category Archives: Tourism

6 must see attractions for kids in Melbourne

Melbourne is a magic city for a fun and family friendly holiday. It’s easy to get around, there are loads to see and do and the kids will be delighted by the novelty of travelling around on the vintage trams. There’s also lots of budget accommodation and fantastic cheap eats, so a holiday in Melbourne needn’t break the family budget.

Here are six must see attractions in Melbourne and surrounds that all the family will enjoy.

 

1. Watch the Penguin Parade on Phillip Island

Penguin Parade
The nightly penguin parade at Phillip Island

Take a waddle on the wild side at the famous Penguin Parade on Phillip Island, a 90 minute drive from Melbourne. Every evening at sunset thousands of little penguins (the world’s smallest and cutest) cross the beach and settle into their burrows for the night. A family ticket for two adults and two children costs from $56.50. While at Phillip Island, be sure to stop by the Koala Conservation Centre and Churchill Heritage Farm.

Phillip Island tours from Melbourne

 

2. Visit Melbourne Museum

Phar Lap
Phar Lap – Australia’s wonder horse

Located in Carlton, the award-winning Melbourne Museum explores the nature, culture and history of Victoria. Highlights include a complete skeleton of a blue whale, the famous race horse Phar Lap, a living rainforest, the Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre and an IMAX theatre. Entry is around $10 for adults, while children up to 16 years of age are free.

 

3. Old Melbourne Gaol

Old Melbourne Gaol
Old Melbourne Gaol – a crime & justice experience

Located in Russell Street in Melbourne’s CBD, the Old Melbourne Gaol precinct includes Melbourne’s oldest gaol, the historic Magistrate’s Court and former Police City Watch House. A day tour ticket for two adults and two children costs around $55, or thrill children over 12 by taking The Hangman’s tour or an evening ghost tour by candlelight.

 

 

 

4. Travel on the Spirit of Tasmania

Spirit of Tasmania
Spirit of Tasmania – a trip to remember

Take the kids ‘overseas’ on a side trip to Tasmania cruising across Bass Strait with the Spirit of Tasmania. Choose from day or night sailings between Melbourne and Devonport and enjoy a range of facilities on board including dining and bars, a playroom, games arcade and cinema. Adult day tickets start from around $79 and children $5. Take your car along with you from around $89.

 

5. Eureka Sky Deck 88

Eureka Skydeck
Eureka Skydeck

Located atop the Eureka Tower in Southbank, the Eureka Sky Deck 88 offers awe-inspiring 360 degree views from the highest public vantage point in the Southern Hemisphere. For a real thrill seeker experience try The Edge, a glass cube that projects three metres out from the building. Family tickets for two adults and two children cost around $42. The Edge experience is extra.

 

 

 

 

 

6. Fairy Park

Fairy Park
Fairy Park – tales, myths and legends

A one-hour drive from Melbourne, Fairy Park at Anakie is a wonderland for the whole family. Kids can become a knight, a princess, a hero or a villain for the day and enter a world dedicated to storytelling, fairy tales, myths and legends. Tickets are from around $16 per adult and $8 per child, children under three years free.

 

 

These six must-see attractions are just the beginning of the many family-friendly activities on offer in Melbourne. So take the family to Melbourne for a fun-packed holiday of a lifetime.

Off the beaten path in Melbourne & Victoria

Melbourne and Victoria offer a wondrous number of destinations ripe for exploration and enjoyment. While the city of Melbourne holds many different popular attractions, research the possibilities of going off the beaten path. Journey through the countryside and visit unique locations and experience once-in-a lifetime adventures.

THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD

Great Ocean Road
The 12 Apostles rock formation on the stunning Great Ocean Road

Considered one of the most scenic areas in southern Australia, the Great Ocean Road lies south-west of Melbourne along the coast. Driving on the road, visitors see an array of unusual rock formations jutting out of the shoreline or out of the water. One of those not be missed are the famous Twelve Apostles – although due to wave erosion, there are only 8 of these limestone stacks left standing. The area has sandy beaches and camp sites where holiday makers enjoy canoeing and kayaking or just exploring and photographing the landscape. Venture to the Great Otway National Park and hike through gorges while witnessing cascading waterfalls and encounter a series of caves. The park also serves as home to a myriad of wildlife including kangaroos and koalas.

Great Ocean Road tours & activities

HANGING ROCK

Hanging Rock
The view from Morgan’s Lookout near the summit of Hanging Rock

The Hanging Rock Recreation Reserve lies in the middle of the Macedon Ranges, east of Woodend. This unique rock formation rises 718 meters above sea level and features a massive boulder suspended between other massive structures. A pathway leads into the expansive cavern beneath the hanging rock. The location remains a favourite destination for climbing and gaining a bird’s eye view over the landscape. The park also has a forest, creek and picnic grounds along with an interpretation centre and cafe. While hiking around the park, guests often see eagles, koalas and kookaburras along with possums and wallabies. The local Hanging Rock Winery welcomes visitors to sample a number of locally produced wines while enjoying the view of the Macedon Ranges and lush green rolling hills.

HEALESVILLE SANCTUARY

Koala
A koala at the Healesville Sanctuary

Unlike conventional zoos, the Healesville Sanctuary strives to defeat species extinction through a number of breeding programs. Set in a rural bush setting on the outskirts of Healesville, the sanctuary features animals native to Australia that range from cassowaries to Tasmanian Devils. The park offers various live demonstrations and feedings throughout the day to the delight of guests. Watch the abilities of the birds of prey or cuddle a koala. The facility hospital also provides an opportunity for viewing the newest park residents.

TRAVELLING THROUGH VICTORIA

Rather than flying to Melbourne or another location in Victoria, staying in a hotel and relying on public transport or tours for seeing the sights, consider creating a holiday while driving a campervan. Having a personal vehicle provides greater freedom to leisurely come and go wherever desired. Enjoy the great outdoors and spectacular scenery while staying in and exploring the many national parks around the area. Save money and calories while indulging in a home-made BBQ in the fireplaces provided at the camp sites. Caravanning also offers privacy. Sleep in without awakening from the noise created by other hotel guests. Conversely, when staying in rural locations, families or groups of friends need not worry about disturbing other guests. Take a road adventure in a caravan and make lasting memories.

Campervan hire is a great way to explore Melbourne and Victoria. When thinking of campervan hire in Melbourne and Victoria, also take into consideration the state has quality camping parks with convenient facilities where people can rent a space for the night.

Campervan
Create the ideal holiday experience in Victoria by hiring a campervan

Some tourism operators are not taking the internet seriously

cruise
Cost cutting by removing your tourism website is not the answer

Isn’t it frustrating when you see some tourism operators dismiss the value of an internet presence when most travellers are now using the web and social media to plan and book their trips?

Consider this recent example.  A cruise operator that takes passengers on wilderness cruises through a remote part of Gippsland surrounded by a rugged national park (we won’t name them here to protect their privacy) has had their details and website listed on many tourism websites including that of Parks Victoria. Recently, the cruise operator’s website went off-line, so we found their email address and alerted them to the fact.  The reply we got back (we’ve edited it for clarity) is below:

Unfortunately our web site has been discontinued –
not enough hits to justify the cost

What an unexpected reply!

Firstly, the cost of a .com.au domain name, plus simple web hosting with a reputable Australian provider, will set the cruise operator back around $70 per year. How can this tourism business justify removing their internet presence to save the tiny annual website operating cost of $70? You may wonder how many thousands of dollars they were instead spending on brochures to put on the shelf of the local visitor information centre or the big bucks they were splurging on colour newspaper ads.

Secondly, their statement that the number of hits didn’t justify the web presence is unqualified. How many hits did they want? Looking at the counter they used to have on their website, we estimate they got about 1,000 visitors (real people, not web robots) per year.  For a small operator in a remote area, that’s not too bad, particularly as there’s much potential for future growth if they start doing some more active promotion on the web.  All they needed was the right people to come across the website, and they could have had booked out cruises galore.

Let’s be really clear about this – an internet presence in the form of a website is one of the cheapest ways of giving your tourism business exposure in the travel market.  Once you have a website, people will have something concrete to reference on related websites. Here at Travel Victoria, we showcased their business on our tours and cruise pages, for free, giving them good exposure. Now we have nothing to link to, so their listing gets deleted as we have no authoritative source of information to present to our website visitors.  Same goes for social media.  People who want to discuss or share details of this amazing cruise through one of Victoria’s most pristine wilderness areas simply have nothing official to refer others to. People want to instantly see the cruise schedule, costs and photos of the journey so they can see if it is of interest to them.  The cruise operator’s website could also be used to inspire other people who wouldn’t normally do that sort of thing to actually experience it.

With the low cost of domain registration and website hosting, tourism businesses should consider an internet presence as being mandatory for their survival. The last thing they should be doing is wielding the cost-cutting axe to save a tiny $70 by killing off their website and effectively their entire internet presence.

The top 5 most under-rated places in Victoria that you should visit in 2013

Victoria is home to many famous sights and places.  However, for the moment, let’s put aside its hugely popular icons such as glitzy Melbourne city with its many attractions, Ballarat’s Sovereign Hill, The Great Ocean Road, The Grampians and Phillip Island’s penguin parade.  We reveal the top 5 most under-rated places in Victoria that you should try and visit in 2013.


No. 5 – Cape Woolamai

Cape Woolamai
Cape Woolamai, Phillip Island

The south-eastern tip of Phillip Island is usually bypassed by those in a hurry to see the penguin parade, watch motor sport events or visit the island’s main holiday town of Cowes. Cape Woolamai boasts some of Phillip Island’s best coastal scenery and is home to the island’s only surf lifesaving club. For walkers, there’s the Cape Woolamai Trail which extends along the cliff tops of untouched beaches. More>


No. 4 – Corryong

Corryong
Corryong, north-east Victoria

Located in Victoria’s remote north-eastern corner, Corryong is at the “pure end” of Australia’s longest river – the Murray. It’s surrounded by national parks and mountain ranges, with local stockman Jack Riley believed to have been the inspiration behind Banjo Paterson’s famous poem “The Man From Snowy River”. There’s even an  annual bush festival to celebrate this connection. More>


No. 3 – Blackwood

Blackwood
Blackwood, Macedon Ranges

This tiny village is nestled in the lush Macedon Ranges where the rest of the world just seems miles and miles away. Blackwood is home to some of the region’s many mineral springs and the fascinating Garden of St Erth. There’s also relics from the town’s former gold mining days. More>


No. 2 – Wandiligong

Wandiligong
Wandiligong, near Bright

Located just 6 kilometres from Bright – one of Victoria’s famous and popular alpine holiday destinations – the entire town of Wandiligong has been classified by the National Trust. Its attractions include an annual nut festival, Australia’s largest living hedge maze and old gold diggings. One of the best times of year to visit Wandiligong is during the autumn when its deciduous trees erupt into a blaze of colour. More>


No. 1 – Golden Beach

Golden Beach
Golden Beach, Gippsland

The isolation of this small community which fronts the pristine sands of the Ninety Mile Beach in Gippsland makes it the perfect destination for those who want to get away from it all. There’s no flash hotels or undercover shopping centres here, just your basic services and a range of self-contained holiday accommodation. The coastline around Golden Beach is also one of few areas in Victoria that offers free foreshore camping. You can even see the remains of a cargo ship which ran aground on the beach in 1879. More>

The most popular online accommodation booking systems for your website

reservation
Book your stay online

There are an overwhelming number of online booking systems available for use by accommodation providers that allow guests to check availability and made a booking at any time, day or night. People are increasingly abandoning the process of phoning up to make bookings, and email bookings are also being shunned with the proliferation of instant online booking systems.

We have tallied up the 5 most popular third party (i.e. not in-house or group developed) online booking systems used by accommodation providers that are listed on the Travel Victoria website and these are the results:

  1. The Booking Button.  This is by far and away the most popular system, used by 25% of our clients that have an online booking facility.  It’s developed by SiteMinder, who have their headquarters right here in Australia, and their product is also used extensively by overseas accommodation providers. Minimum cost is $29 per month. We love the clean interface that The Booking Button provides to guests.
  2. RMS.  They’ve been in business for 25 years and, like The Booking Button, are from Australia and market their product overseas. Around 11% of our clients that provide online booking facilities use RMS. Minimum cost is $35 per month. However, we’ll go out on a limb here and say that the user interface for those booking accommodation using RMS is probably one of the most dated and cumbersome we have seen.
  3. ResOnline. Used by roughly the same number of our clients as RMS, the ResOnline group has had an interesting history with ownership changes and other dramas. Despite that, they offer a solid product priced from $39 per month.  It also provides free exposure for accommodation property owners into their associated RoamFree accommodation search website.
  4. FrontDesk. This is produced by V3 (pronounced as “V cubed”) – an organisation well-known for their venture with the ATDW (Australian Tourism Data Warehouse) in developing a national booking and distribution system for  tourism products called Tourism Exchange Australia (TXA). V3 provide FrontDesk to accommodation providers via a rather complicated fee schedule.  In general, there’s a $39 monthly fee (although for some providers, it may be free), plus there’s a transaction cost on successful bookings. Almost 10% of our clients that use online booking systems are using FrontDesk.
  5. Web Reservation Systems. 8% of our clients that have independently chosen to use an online booking system are with this group that are based in the idyllic holiday location of Byron Bay. Web Reservation Systems employ the easy to use Booking Center hospitality management software and are the preferred supplier for the Golden Chain motel group throughout Australia. They also create websites which are easy to maintain for businesses, so if you’re after both website development and an online booking system, they are your one stop shop.

Travellers are increasingly expecting to book their accommodation instantly online and will seek out those providers that offer that service. So if you don’t already provide an online booking system, what are you waiting for?

An off-line website implies you’re closed for business

closed
People may assume if your website is down then you’re closed for business

It’s remarkable that in this day and age of the internet, where information about virtually anything anywhere in the world is available online, that some businesses in the travel and tourism industry regard a reliable web presence as something of little importance.  This is particularly relevant to those businesses whose operations pre-date the internet – some simply don’t appreciate how many travellers nowadays expect to instantly find information on the internet, at any time of the day or night.

Consider this example we experienced with a tourism business in Victoria.

A river cruising company (which we won’t name specifically), has operated on one of Victoria’s great scenic rivers for many decades.  Up until 2009, they had a simple website detailing their cruise schedule, what you’ll see along the way and a photo gallery. They let their web hosting expire (cost cutting in the height of the global financial crisis perhaps?), and since then they have had no dedicated web presence.

Many travel websites gave free exposure to this cruising company, (including us here at Travel Victoria), inviting people to click on the link to their website for further details about their cruises, their timetables and contact details. However, because the cruise company abandoned their web presence in 2009, these links went nowhere, and many people were simply left with the impression that the company was no longer operating. And if people think a business is not operating, they will just try elsewhere for what they need.

We cannot emphasise this enough – if your website goes off-line for an extended period of time, people will simply assume you’re no longer in business.

And if people think you may still be in business, you really cannot expect them to take on the role of a web detective, trying to piece together bits of information from various sources, in order to find out what should have been on your website.

As an experiment, using ONLY the internet, we attempted to find out the cruise timetable of this Victorian cruise company which took their website off-line in 2009.  Many websites where this company was mentioned simply provided a link to the off-line website for further information, so that was useless to us.  Others detailed prices and timetables that were dated from many years ago, as they obviously couldn’t get up to date information from the web.  This raised questions as to how accurate the information was, given it was years old.  We even tried the website of the local visitor information centre where the cruise company is based, but alas, they had few details other than a link to the off-line cruise company’s website. So we ended up emailing the visitor information centre asking for details about the cruises. We got a reply back two days later as they probably had to try to contact the cruise company to get the latest information, although to be fair, we did email the visitor information centre on a weekend. But still, one may ask if someone planning their trip is willing to wait two days for information that they could have in seconds if the cruise company continued their web presence? Many people would have probably tried another business in the area or maybe somewhere else in Victoria. That’s tourist dollars lost to that business and also to the town.

We then decided to email the cruise company directly and advise them that their website was off-line to see their response. To begin with, this became another intensive web detective crusade as we tried to find out their email address and we had no idea if the email address they published 3 years ago was still the one they used.  As it turns out, they did get our email, and said they said they are working on a new website. We can only assume they’ve been working on it on for the last 3 years!

Of course, one has to wonder why they didn’t just let their old website continue to run beyond 2009, update only the most critical information as needed, and then replace it once they’d finalised their new site?

With web hosting by reputable Australian companies at very affordable prices, many offering plans of less than $90 per year, there is simply no way to justify a cost-cutting exercise of having your website off-line for 3 years when you’re in the very competitive tourism industry and one in which people expect instant access to information when planning their travels.

Official tourism websites – Victoria vs. Tasmania

Competition between the states with their tourism websites

Each one of Australia’s states and territories has their own official tourism website.  If you own or manage an accommodation property, it is certainly beneficial to have some exposure on these official sites as they are used by a wide range of travellers.

Victoria’s official tourism website is Visit Victoria, while Tasmania’s equivalent is Discover Tasmania.  When it comes to advertising your accommodation, they are quite different.

Go to the Discover Tasmania website and you will find around around 1,050 accommodation listings for this small state with a population of 495,000 people (2011 Census). Pop over to the Visit Victoria website where there are around 1,400 accommodation listings in a state which is home to 5.35 million people.

So why does Victoria, with more than 10 times the population of Tasmania and being home to the second largest city in Australia (i.e. Melbourne), have only a slightly larger listing of visitor accommodation on its official tourism website? It mainly comes down to cost.  Accommodation listings are free on Discover Tasmania, hence anyone operating an accommodation business in Tasmania can receive, at no cost, exposure on that state’s official tourism website. To do so, they just need to register their business in Tourism Tasmania’s TigerTOUR database.  In Victoria, accommodation listings on Visit Victoria cost $250 per year, although this is reduced to $100 for accredited tourism businesses. This cost therefore discourages some accommodation operators in Victoria from listing on Visit Victoria.

This raises an important question. Should official tourism websites for Australia’s states and territories provide free accommodation listings in order to promote tourism and encourage people to stay overnight and contribute to the local economy?  Tasmania and Victoria appear to have different views on that idea.