End of era for visitor centre

Alicia PereraPilbara News
The Roebourne Visitor Centre will close down at the end of this year, making way for a new bus tours venture for the Roebourne and Districts Tourism Association.
Camera IconThe Roebourne Visitor Centre will close down at the end of this year, making way for a new bus tours venture for the Roebourne and Districts Tourism Association. Credit: Alicia Perera

Roebourne Visitor Centre — as locals know it — will close on December 31, but the association behind it plans to continue running a different kind of tourism service in the area.

After 24 years of operation out of the town’s historic old jail, the Roebourne District Tourist Association, which has been trading as the RVC, will move out of the building as its permanent premises because of a City of Karratha shift to a single visitor services provider model.

However, RDTA chairman Bruce Jorgensen said the association would remain active by operating guided bus tours under a different trading name during the 2017 tourist season.

“What we’ll be doing is running tourism products rather than providing visitor services,” he said.

“So the idea is we’ll continue with port-to-port tours, wildflower tours and link up with cultural tourism, too.”

“We intend also to run guided tours of Roebourne jail.”

Mr Jorgensen said the RDTA hoped to keep the jail and its surrounding historical buildings open to the public during tourist season each year, and eventually hoped to establish it as a historical prison museum, similar to that of Fremantle.

RDTA vice-chairwoman Eileen Wright said as a museum, the jail had “the potential to be a tourist gem of the North West”, but needed infrastructure improvements.

The RVC’s closure comes after the City of Karratha opted in September to introduce a single-provider model for visitor centre services, for which the Karratha Visitor Centre won the tender.

The model requires the KVC to have an information service presence in Roebourne.

Roebourne Visitor Centre’s submission was turned down but councillors encouraged them to re-submit for the next round of tenders, in two years time. City of Karratha Mayor Peter Long said the new visitor centre arrangement would take some adjustment, but with it came opportunities to innovate, including to the historic Roebourne old gaol building.

“Council believes the new delivery model, with Karratha Visitor Centre providing a consistent service across both towns, will give the best experience to travellers through our city and allows more flexibility in opening hours and levels of service,” he said. “While this is a change for the Roebourne community, it gives the KVC the ability to innovate and investigate new service delivery models across the two centres and also gives the City the opportunity to investigate greater use of the old jail and heritage precinct as a tourism product in its own right.”

The RDTA has already received its final piece of funding from the City and will become completely independent as of January 1.

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