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In 2017 winter visitors to our region will be able to package a complete Mt Buller holiday in one seamless online transaction thanks to a new “best of breed” reservation system that is supported with traditional call centre services.
Changes planned in 2017 for the Mansfield Mt Buller Regional Tourism Association (MMBRTA) will see a separation of the reservations business from the visitor information centre, in a move that will streamline the booking process for customers and reduce commissions costs for businesses.
MMBRTA Chair Alex Green explained the MMBRTA Board had undertaken a strategic review to address the changes in booking patterns by visitors. “The rapid changes in the tourism bookings space combined with the trends around the way people access visitor information, which is increasingly online and prior to arrival in destination has driven the need for change”.
“Over the years there has been a steady drop in ‘walk ins’ to the visitor information centre, more online research by prospective visitors, increased online accommodation bookings via online travel agencies or operator direct and a commensurate drop in bookings via our reservations team.”
“Phone enquiry and bookings are down and there is a reduced reliance of our operators on the Visitor Information Centre for bookings exacerbated by a booking system that is outdated and very limited in an extremely competitive environment and expensive to replace,” he said.
The members of the MMBRTA have entered into an agreement with Buller Holidays to operate the reservation service on their behalf without the need for recurrent funding from either the Shire or RMB. Buller Holidays is owned by Buller Ski Lifts and has provided an accommodation and snow products booking service since 2010. BSL was a foundation member of the MMBRTA.
Speaking about the new booking platform BSL General Manager Laurie Blampied explained, “Buller Holidays will deliver a game changing booking service giving guests real time information on accommodation availability and the ability to package these purchases with snow products, resort entry and other activities in one transaction 24 hours a day, seven days a week. “The new system we are rolling out is used by over 50 leading resorts worldwide and will allow Buller Holidays to deliver the best possible online experience for our guests while maximising our opportunity to increase occupancy rates and reduce the commissions payable by our accommodation partners. Our business model is fundamentally different to other sales channels because we are not solely dependent on commissions. The more beds we fill for all operators in the system the more snow products we are able to sell which makes it a truly win-win situation.” Blampied clarified.
Summer visitors, accommodation houses and activity providers will also be able to enjoy the same benefits of the new reservation service with Buller Holidays committed to operating 52 weeks a year. The new booking system will continue to be linked to www.mansfieldmtbuller.com.au and www.mtbuller.com.au as well as www.bullerholidays.com.au with a focus on the whole of destination in both summer and winter, on and off mountain. Tourism operators will continue to have the option of live online bookings or operator assisted bookings via the call centre.
Chief Executive Officer for Mt Buller Mt Stirling Resort Management, John Huber, said these changes will be a win for customers, businesses and the region as a whole. “It is an exciting time for the Mansfield Mt Buller region as we transition to a new digital platform that gives customers the ability to book a fully packaged holiday in one transaction day or night – something that has not been possible until now. We see our investment and partnership with BSL in this new digital platform, as a strong investment in the tourism industry of the region. Consumer behaviour in the tourism space has changed considerably in recent years, and this move will mean that our customers can experience a seamless planning and booking process directly from the website, whilst businesses can maximise their presence online and generate greater return.”
The chair of the Mt Buller Chamber of Commerce, Socrates Pilipasidis said “It’s exciting to offer a better service for our guests. This system is a major improvement on the old model and will enable Mansfield and Mt Buller businesses a great opportunity to grow bookings and revenues in a way that wasn’t possible before.”
Mansfield Shire Council will run the Visitor Information Centre once the MMBRTA ceases. The format will be much as it is now with reduced opening hours best tailored to fit with visitor demand. Fixed term positions for the Visitor Information Centre staff will be advertised early in 2017.
“The Visitor Information Service will continue to operate to provide walk in visitor information, answer phone and email enquiries and assist people in making bookings in order to encourage longer stays, increased spend while here and repeat visitation,” Green said. The MMBRTA board has decided to dissolve the organisation in the first half of 2017.
In its conception MMBRTA was lauded as ahead of its time and the envy of other regions. “It’s been a highly successful model that has returned incredible value to our economy and businesses, underpinned by funding from Mt Buller Mt Stirling Resort Management Board, Mansfield Shire Council and booking commissions,” explained Green. “But the existing model, informed by current trends and without a large injection of funds is not sustainable,” he said.
Destination marketing to provide inspiration, develop product and promote the experiences will still occur and be generated cooperatively by the key stakeholders including Mt Buller Mt Stirling Resort Management Board, Mansfield Shire Council and Tourism North East together with business.
The MMBRTA is a company limited by guarantee set up in 2001 to manage the Mansfield Mt Buller Visitor Information Centre and High Country Reservations. Board members include representatives from Council, ARMB, BSL and other on and off mountain business.
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