Naracoorte tourism at a three year high

ANOTHER summer holiday season in Naracoorte is in full swing - and things are looking swell.

The January 2014 visitor numbers are on par with recent years but December 2013's numbers were at a three-year high with 1140 people coming through the door at the Naracoorte Visitor Information Centre, compared to 1028 in 2012 and 1042 in 2011.

And that number doesn't include enquiries via phone and email.

Add in the number of people who come to Naracoorte but don't necessarily stop at the information centre and it makes for a happy holiday season according to Naracoorte Lucindale Council's tourism and venues coordinator Vicki Modistach.

"We're very pleased with the amount of visitors coming through," she told the Herald. "I'm happy with how it has gone and how it is going - because it is still going."

International visitors are a growing trend for Naracoorte, with Europe and the United States a large source of tourism.

"We've had 126 people from Europe," Mrs Modistach said. "Which is getting up there."

Other continent-hopping visitors are coming from South American countries such as Ecuador and Columbia and Asian nations such as India, Malaysia and Hong Kong.

"There's been a real variety," Mrs Modistach commented about the diverse origin of tourists.

But not all have come from across the seas: nearly 200 people from Adelaide came through the visitor centre in December alone while border-hopping Victorians helped boost the numbers.

All the usual destinations have proven to be a winner for Naracoorte and the surrounding area.

"Bool Lagoon has been very good to us in the holidays now that it has water in it," Mrs Modistach said.

"Lots of people are enquiring about it."

And of course the world heritage listed Naracoorte Caves are bringing in the usual summer crowd.

"I wish I had a 10c piece for every discount voucher for the caves I've handed out," she said.

"Or for any information about them I've given...it's such a beautiful setting."

It also wouldn't be summer in Naracoorte without the lake getting a good amount of patronage and, despite the cold weather, it has still garnered plenty of attention from tourists.

"It's always up there," Mrs Modistach said. "And people must be talking about the lake because we've had direct questions about it."

The age demographic of visitors has shown an increasing number of younger people, in their early 20s, coming to town while the older generation have continued to filter in.

As the summer holiday ends and younger people go back to hitting the books it is likely more of the "grey nomads" will come to town.

"You get the situation where grandma and grandpa have been looking after the kids during the holidays while mum and dad work," Mrs Modistach said. "Now the kids will be going back to school and it's time for the grandparents to have holidays."

Mrs Modistach forecast a big year for Naracoorte in terms of tourism, with a host of events coming to the district - including the 2014 Masters Games in April which she predicted would bring "thousands" of people to the district.

The overall positive feeling towards tourism was reflected in the town's businesses.

Naracoorte Lucindale Business and Tourism Association president Judy Johnson - who is also involved in family business The Veg Shed - said it was all hands on deck in the lead-up to Christmas.

"From our point of view it was very good," she said. 

"Certainly the period leading up to Christmas was our busiest in several years.

"Perhaps due to the cooler weather bringing people into town rather than the coast."

Ms Johnson agreed with Mrs Modistach's thoughts about the Masters Games.

She said The Veg Shed, for instance, would likely see an increase in wholesale customers as a result of the weekend while from a wider business and tourism association point of view certain industries such as the hospitality and retail sectors should see a boom if they manage it right.

"Hopefully they will take advantage of it that weekend," Ms Johnson concluded.

Tourism numbers also up in Penola and Coonawarra area.

What is your favourite tourist destination in the SE? Share your hot spots in the comments below.

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