’Focal point’ in the works for Bay’s marine tourism

AN EXPERIENCE centre devoted to Hervey Bay's marine tourism could soon be a new tourist attraction for the city.

The development of a centre in the Urangan Harbour Precinct was the top recommendation from a marine and land based tourism infrastructure planning study commissioned by the Fraser Coast Regional Council and undertaken by TRC Tourism.

The centre was a subject of discussion at this week's council meeting.

Fraser Coast mayor George Seymour said the council would now focus on preparing a detailed analysis and developing a preliminary concept for the World Heritage and Marine Experience Activity Terminal.

"The centre would be a focal point for the region's marine experiences, connecting Fraser Island, Butchulla history and culture, whale heritage, the intersection of the two UNESCO Biospheres and the region's other unique natural assets," he said.

"The centre could transform the region, ensuring the Fraser Coast can deliver world-class tourism experiences to high value travellers and attract more visitors to the region.

"The project would also help activate and attract investment to the Urangan Harbour Precinct.

"Hervey Bay recently was awarded whale heritage site status, so it is imperative we are able to maintain our reputation as Australia's premiere whale watching destination."

Both stages of the study were funded under the Queensland Government's Maturing the Infrastructure Pipeline Program.

"Stage One identified infrastructure gaps that will inhibit growth of the tourism industry, and considered potential priority projects for further investigation," Cr Seymour said.

"As part of Stage Two, further investigations will now be undertaken into the feasibility of the proposed World Heritage and Marine Experience Activity Terminal and the development of a preliminary concept."

The study will include investigations of similar facilities in Australia and around the world such as the Phillip Island Visitor Centre, Milford Sound Southern Discovery Centre, and the Mon Repos Turtle Centre in Bundaberg.

"The centre would be a destination to give visitors who arrive in the 'off peak' season an insight into the significant whale migrations and the role of Hervey Bay, as well as creating sufficient interest in other marine activities to encourage visitors to participate in a marine activity," Cr Seymour said.

The building could be a terminal for all of Hervey Bay's marine tourism operators, providing a space for information, check-in, waiting space, amenities and services.

The centre would be funded through a combination of public, private and grants. It would be managed by a commercial entity.

"Similar projects have cost between $13 million and $20 million, and were heavily funded through State and Federal investments. This proposal has great potential to attract both public and private funding," Cr Seymour said.