An innovative school leavers registration program improved relations between young people enjoying a great break and the local communities hosting them.
The Surf Coast Shire, encompassing the popular destinations of Lorne and Torquay, hosts thousands of school leavers every Nov/Dec. To minimise any detrimental impact on local communities, and to ensure that the young people were well taken care of, the shire initiated a re-brand called: Good Times Great Breaks, Respect the Place, Look After your Mates, and a registration program.
The program provided security and financial benefits to registered students and allowed the shire to create a more accurate planning model to manage the spike in visitors. Planning for additional transportation, security and safety facilities, provided peace of mind for the local community, the young people and their parents. It's a win-win program.
Jackie Hetherington, Team Leader Youth Development and School Leavers Working Group Coordinator for the Surf Coast Shire explained the purpose of the School Leavers Working Group for the School Leaver Period, The School Leaver Period isn't an event, as such, but rather a peak in tourism that requires management due to the potential impact on young people, the community and our environment. By registering young people we gather information about the people attending so we can plan more accurately. The process also allows us to collect valuable data for documentation, statistics and reports at the completion of the year."
Registration for an open event like the School Leaver Period was a new concept, so incentives were provided to encourage registration. "We charged each young person $20.00 and this gave them a welcome barbeque, an official t-shirt and a wristband that provided access to free shuttle buses, chill-out zones and a range of local discounts," continued Jackie. Students registered on TryBooking through the Schoolies Down South website (now Good Times Great Breaks). The website already gets about 12 000 hits in the peak period of November, so Jackie's team knew the internet was the best way to quickly register school leavers, "Young people are so electronically savvy so it was a good and easy fit. Most young people seemed to like the process and being labelled as a 'schoolie' seemed to make them feel a bit safer."
The online registration process exceeded expectations. More than 2,000 students registered, leaving the School Leavers Working Group short of T-shirts, but thrilled with the response.
Online registration also meant a reduced workload for the School Leavers Working Group, "Once TryBooking is set up, the system really takes care of itself. It is easy to use and when we had a question the support team was very quick to get back to us, often offering ideas and suggestions we hadn't thought of. The personal support really made a difference to us " "TryBooking was also easier because there was no exchange of money by hand or tricky pieces of paper to manage. During the online registration, school leavers provide us with all the information we needed without us having to do any data entry. We simply downloaded required data into our own excel spreadsheets."
Registration proved such a valuable tool that Jackie plans to emphasis early registrations more in the future, "Now that we've had such great success with online registration, we plan to use the information to contact young people prior to and during their stay to provide harm minimisation information. This year registration will go live in March and we will increase the incentives to register early by offering an early-registration discount and providing even more value for money."