Hills-Hawkesbury tourism: one door closes, another opens

Mungerie House at Rouse Hill has closed.
Mungerie House at Rouse Hill has closed.
Hawkesbury & Riverlands Tourism chairman, Alan McCartney at Dural Visitor Information Centre. Picture: Gene Ramirez

Hawkesbury & Riverlands Tourism chairman, Alan McCartney at Dural Visitor Information Centre. Picture: Gene Ramirez

CLOSING the doors of Mungerie House Information Centre has opened up new doors for tourism says The Hills, Hawkesbury & Riverlands Tourism Association.

Its spokeswoman said the $20,000 The Hills Council will save by no longer leasing the circa 1890s homestead on Windsor Road at Rouse Hill will go to the implementation of HHART's Destination Management Plan.

"It's a three-year commitment and they're the only council to do this," she said.

The council has also provided HHART with a tourism officer to oversee their meetings, conferences and events sector.

"We've recognised that's a large-yielding business for The Hills and Hawkesbury areas," HHART's spokeswoman said.

HHART encompasses four council areas. The others are Hawkesbury, Hornsby and Blacktown.

The Hills unanimously voted to surrender the lease of the centre to Lend Lease GPT on Tuesday due to declining visitor numbers. HHART had been managing the centre

on their behalf since 2009.

"We moved out of Mungerie House in December knowing the resources could be better spent by using the mobile visitor centre.

"Just under 2000 people a year were coming through [Mungerie].

"At the Hawkesbury sandsculpting [championship] we saw 25,000 — that's why we need to be put more resources into our mobile centre.

"The challenge with Mungerie was when it was originally planned Windsor Road was going to be an access.

"Logistically it was hard to get people through the rabbit warren of roads that were behind it."

The Hills deputy mayor Andrew Jefferies welcomed the redirection of funds from "a little-visited bricks-and-mortar facility into increased online initiatives to boost the region's visitor numbers".

A former tourism industry executive officer, he said his council's commitment to tourism and growing the local visitor economy was "as strong as ever".

He said this was evidenced by "new interpretative works at the Dural Visitor Information Centre on Old Northern Road and the recent hiring of long-term tourism expert Lori Modde to its staff".

The centre shares a property with colonial heritage-listed homestead Roughley House and is on the route of a 240-kilometre convict trail.

Speaking at the launch of The Hills, Hawkesbury & Riverlands Tourism Association Destination Management Plan in 2013, its author Mark Olsen, of EC3 Global, said while HHART had grown its share of day-trip visitors to 11 per cent of the NSW total, the overnight market was only 2 per cent — something HHART had to work on.

But not only HHART. The NSW government has called on each region across the state to double its visitor expenditure by 2020.

Mr Olsen said HHART injects $391million into the local economy and supports 5395 jobs but if visitors stayed only a third of a day longer, this would have a nearly $10 million knock-on effect into our economy. He said creating experiences for people was key.

‘‘No one visits a council area or an electorate, they visit a region,’’ HHART chairman Alan McCartney said.