A $2.5 million project that is expected to boost the Hunter Valley visitor economy was officially opened on Monday.
Cessnock mayor Bob Pynsent was joined by Liberal Senator for New South Wales, Hollie Hughes, and Member for Hunter Joel Fitzgibbon (ALP) to unveil the information bay on Oakey Creek Road, Pokolbin and celebrate the work completed so far under the Hunter Valley Wine Country Tourism Signage Implementation Project.
The project was funded by a $1.25 million grant under the Australian Government's Building Better Regions Fund and matched dollar-for-dollar by Cessnock City Council.
It included the construction of tourist wayfinding signage such as information bays at Kearsley, Lovedale and Pokolbin; gateway entry signs at Brunkerville, Black Hill and Branxton, and precinct signs which were installed at 20 key locations across the Cessnock local government area.
A council spokesperson said the new infrastructure has resulted in improved tourist wayfinding, provided a sense of place in Hunter Valley Wine Country and is expected to encourage tourist activities, improve the visitor experience and facilitate economic growth.
The spokesperson said feedback from local businesses has been "overwhelmingly positive", with more than 300 businesses featuring on the new information bays.
Cr Pynsent said there was a critical need to offer clear and accurate signage for both the local community and visitors to our region.
"Hunter Valley Wine Country attracts over 1.5 million visitors each year and having this directional signage to guide visitors to local businesses and help them to navigate their way around is really positive," he said.
"It is projects like these that help to really cement Hunter Valley Wine Country as a premier tourist destination."
Ms Hughes said this investment in the Hunter Valley wine region is a good example of the Federal Government's commitment to building better regions.
"Signage is important to ensure that tourists can easily navigate their way around this wonderful place, and that ease of access will only enhance their experience, encourage return visits and referrals," she said.
"Tourism is such a vital part of the local economy, especially when you consider the concert weekends like the recent Elton John event, and the visitor boosts required particularly in light of the devastating bushfires.
"By assisting tourists find their way around, and the use of technology like QR readers and disability access, the Hunter region is only going to see benefits."
Mr Fitzgibbon said the signage project was a "necessary investment" in one of the Hunter Valley's major industries.
"We have a major and growing tourism industry in our region, which employs thousands of local people, and sees around 1.5 million people visiting here each year," he said.
"When we have an influx of visitors - as we did with the double Elton John concerts during the weekend - we need the tourism infrastructure, such as these information bays and other tourism signage, so tourists can find their way around and ensure they're getting the best experience."
In January last year, council received a $2.2 million grant from the NSW Government's Regional Growth and Tourism Fund to continue rolling out the project.
This will fund additional gateway entry signs at Laguna, Pokolbin and Seahampton; information bays on Wilderness Road, Lovedale, McDonalds Road, Pokolbin and Cessnock Road, Abermain, plus nine suburb entry signs, additional street blades, community facility signs and more tourist signage.