Glass skywalk and glamping proposed to lure more visitors to Mount Buffalo
A similar glass bridge could be created at Mount Buffalo as this one in Shiniuzhai park in China. (Reuters: China Daily )
A 50-metre glass skywalk and “eco-pods” for glamping are among ideas put forward to lure more tourists to Victoria’s alpine region — but they need government investment to become a reality.
Proposals to reinvigorate the mountain include a 50-metre glass bottomed walkway over Mount Buffalo’s plunging granite gorge, glamping, education centres, and upgrading Australia’s largest timber building — the Mount Buffalo Chalet.
The findings of the Mount Buffalo Business Case Assessment, carried out by PwC and commissioned by the Alpine Shire Council, followed a grassroots campaign to reinvigorate Mount Buffalo.
The PwC report found that the seven proposed activation concepts for the mountain have great potential, but can only be reached if government invests in the project.
The report stated:
“Our market engagement has further unveiled that at this early stage of the whole-of-mountain development vision, the private sector is unwilling to dedicate significant resources and investment due to the challenges associated with the mountain in its current state (i.e. planning environment, lease tenure and significant capital infrastructure requirements).
“A firm Government commitment to address these areas would be needed in order to attract private sector investment.”
Mount Buffalo currently attracts about 200,000 visitors each year.
Starting the overhaul of Mount Buffalo
The assessment recommended small steps initially to bring the Mount Buffalo vision to life.
It flagged a $2 million café for the front rooms of the Mount Buffalo Chalet as the first priority to reconnect people to the chalet.
It also noted that the initial small projects will prove pivotal in building confidence with the community, business operators, and potential investors.
The grounds of the Mount Buffalo Chalet would also receive a facelift under the proposed renovations. (ABC Goulburn Murray: Erin Somerville)
The Alpine Shire Council’s mayor, Ron Janas, welcomed the report and said that council is eager to start on its recommendations.
“A café will reinvigorate the iconic building and will reconnect people to the chalet,” he said.
“It will build confidence with the community, business operators and potential investors.
“We need to maintain momentum and see on-the-ground results as soon as possible.”
Councillor Janas said Council would continue to advocate on behalf of the community to secure investment in the chalet café from the state government.
“This is the first critical step to encourage increased visitation, business opportunities and investment,” he said.
Seven ways to awaken Mount Buffalo
The project assessment covers seven tourism concepts across five key visitor hubs within the Mount Buffalo National Park, as determined in the Vision for Mount Buffalo document.
They include a $12 million Gorge Skywalk Tourism Attraction, Eco-Pods for glamping at Lake Catani, and redeveloping Crest Valley into an Alpine Activity Centre.
The Mount Buffalo Chalet draws visitors to the top of Mount Buffalo, but is slowly deteriorating in the alpine weather. (ABC Goulburn Murray: Erin Somerville)
The projects also include creating a visitor centre at the base of the mountain, and developing an Outdoor Education Centre of Excellence and student accommodation at Dingo Dell.
The Mount Buffalo Chalet has also been identified for redevelopment.
Known as ‘The Grand Old Lady’, the iconic building was closed over a decade ago and has since been undergoing basic restoration works as it weathers the harsh alpine elements.
But the project also plans to bring it back to life by repurposing up to 95 per cent of the existing building infrastructure for the purpose of an accommodation and day lodge facility.
The $38 million dollar makeover of the Chalet proposed initial stage includes a 42-room boutique hotel within the fabric of the existing Chalet.
The concept includes complete refurbishment of the existing northern and southern wings into high-end hotel rooms, as well refurbishment of the existing upstairs dining room, Manfields Café, the ballroom, lounges and billiards room for use by hotel guests.
Eco-Pods at Lake Catani have been flagged as an early development opportunity to bring income and commercial interest to the region.
The report also listed the Gorge Skywalk and Dingo Dell Outdoor Centre of Excellence as having potential to lure in private investors early in the development stage.
“Whilst they do not produce risk-adjusted returns that would be considered highly appealing by the private sector, we see a prime opportunity for each of these concepts to drive broader visitation to the region that could then act as a catalyst and underpin further development of the Mount Buffalo Chalet at a future stage,” the report said.