By Karen Buck
NOEL Phillips is a bloke with a good imagination, and mostly what he imagines is what it might be like being a tourist arriving in Denmark after hours.
“Let’s say you’re from Queensland and you pull into town after business hours, towing your caravan – you’re not someone who uses a phone or device to get information in advance, and what you want to know is where you can get a feed and a place to stay,” Noel said.
“So you pull into the information bay – if you can stop in time. Remember you’re towing that three tonne caravan and the signs indicating the tourist information bay don’t give you much stopping notice – and what do you see?”
What you see is a geographical map of the area through to Walpole and beyond. What you don’t see is any information telling you where any accommodation is, where you can go to eat – and most importantly for Noel, who owns and has run the Rivermouth Caravan Park for the past 17 years – where the caravan parks are.
“The visitor centre is closed, so if you go to check that out there’s no information, so I guess you just keep driving up the hill and out of town.”
The tourist information boards that once advertised local businesses were removed some time ago, Noel said, in a move designed to direct tourist traffic to the visitor centre, which charged owners commission for any referral.
“That’s all well and good, but the visitor centre has no after-hours or weekend presence.
“Not everybody uses social media, and the folk who don’t need to be catered for, too. We need to cater for all our visitors,” he said.
He has been campaigning for years to have the visitor boards reinstalled, but so far his requests have fallen on deaf ears.
“Obviously businesses are charged to advertise in the information bays, probably at the same sort of rate they charge to put sandwich boards out at the visitor centre when it’s open,” he said.
“It’s a revenue raiser for them and a service to our visitors.”
Service to visitors is the motivating factor behind the Rivermouth Caravan Park’s decision to build a new onsite café.
The spacious, light-filled premises are due to open in spring, with a menu yet to be determined.
It overlooks the Denmark River and the inlet, and offers inside and outside undercover ringside seats to the regular pelican and waterbird entertainment.
The café is for town use as well as providing one more attraction for visitors to the park.
The building will also house the park reception area and feature large television screens promoting the area and its many attractions.
“You have to give your visitors what they want, and they want a total experience,” Mr Phillips said.
“We have boats, a 4wd bus for touring, a range of accommodation options, and we want to tell visitors what else they can do in our region. It’s good for everyone if we can get families staying longer.”
The park runs at an average 55 percent occupancy, and the family-run business does most of its own marketing via social media and television campaigns.