Meet Helen Beekmans - City of Greater Dandenong

Meet Helen Beekmans – City of Greater Dandenong

Meet Helen Beekmans, Food Enterprise and Tourism Officer, Economic Development Unit, City of Greater Dandenong. Her title may be a mouthful, but it is matched by her knowledge and passion for tourism.

Helen told us about her twofold approach to continuously marketing the City of Greater Dandenong within the tourism space and ensuring partnerships with the lead players in the industry.

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“Firstly, we have our local community to whom we showcase the environment they reside in, it is indeed a tourism destination for their visiting friends and family. Secondly, the marketing and promotion of our area to the wider community and more importantly the tourism industry.”

A strategy for success

The City of Greater Dandenong has a Tourism Strategy and Action Plan that concludes this year. As we reach the end of this period, plans are already in the works for new inspiring goals.

 “We recognised that we don’t have the traditional tourist drawcards, but what we do have is the diverse cultures, cuisines and great unique shopping precincts.”

The tourism strategy is used to leverage these strengths, showcasing exciting experiences on offer. Greater Dandenong is now Australia’s most culturally diverse community. This has given rise to strategic intent and goals for enticing visitation and spend. This strategy is called the four pillars – Eat, Shop, See and Do.

“As a marketing person, the best outcome I feel is that the tourism industry has recognised Dandenong has got something to offer the visiting traveller, and the local resident who is entertaining their visiting friends and family.

“When you have finished with one strategy, the next one should always be about taking things to the next level. One of the biggest aspects is the ongoing conversations about people’s perceptions. The City of Greater Dandenong today has grown from where it was decades ago, as it should. Not only has the physicality of the area changed, but so have the demographics. We are richer for the inclusion of our varied cultures and we are stronger in our stance together. We would like to see this come out further with the next level and the next strategy will reflect this.”

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Locals as ambassadors

For visiting friends and relatives, their hosts – the people who live in the community – are the greatest influence on what they do while visiting. City of Greater Dandenong has joined the Discover Your Own Backyard campaign, which works by engaging and connecting with locals to become ambassadors for their neighbourhoods, concentrating visitation and spend locally.

“We feel the basic rule of thumb here is awareness. Our residents are ambassadors when they don’t even realise it.  We will continue the conversations highlighting the everyday experiences locals can take for granted.  

More and more over time they have the realisation when they are taking their visitors out and showing them where they live and what they have to do in the area, they are seeing their own backyard through the eyes of their visitors.”

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Leveraging culturally diverse precincts

With Chinese visitation to Melbourne growing year on year, and now leading international visitation numbers for all of Melbourne, this represents an opportunity for many precincts and local government areas.

“We market Sensational Springvale with the many different cultures it has to offer. Visitors will be spoiled for choice. Springvale’s retail area offers a unique shopping experience and is one of Melbourne’s best shopping strips for Asian goods and restaurants. 

There are over retail 300 businesses in Springvale offering modern and traditional clothing, Chinese medicines, imported jewelry and duty free to list a few. There are over 50 restaurants, cafes and fresh food stores that draw on Asian influences.

“If your indulgence is food, you will find restaurants offering Vietnamese, Cambodian, Uyghur, Thai, Chinese and much more.  All the food is authentic and traditional to each of the many individual cultures and regions.”

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Food retailers join the tourism trade

Historically, restaurants, cafes and bars have not always seen themselves as part of the tourism industry, yet food tourism and Melbourne’s enviable reputation as a foodie city is a strong drawcard for visitation – across Greater Melbourne.

“By getting food and beverage retailers involved in our Food and Cultural Tours, and by showcasing them to the wider audience, they are beginning to see the benefits and gaining that understanding they need to be part of the journey to get the benefits.

“It’s not always an instant take up, but when they do, they start to see the benefits that can come to their business.  It’s ongoing and the commitment, passion and dedication by the organisation is tantamount to the success of the area.

“Like everyone else in the industry, we use our success stories to promote to the businesses there is nothing more credible than solid proof to highlight what we as an organisation are doing with the area.”

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Festivals and cultural understanding equal visitation and spend

With over 60 events across the community, Helen says she is seeing a rise in applications coming forward from the various cultures, wishing to commemorate their cultural celebrations

“We are very proud of our festival and events calendar. People from all over are visiting and taking part in our celebrations.

As Australia’s most culturally diverse locality, residents come from over 157 different birthplaces and more than half the residents were born overseas. For Helen, and City of Greater Dandenong, awareness and inclusion is important in order to build the success of the community and of tourism.

“We are also mindful of the fact that it isn’t only the delicious food on offer, we have the Interfaith network which supports the local faith communities. The Interfaith Network is a group of diverse cultural and religious faiths working in partnership with a simple goal to promote understanding, respect and tolerance for each other’s beliefs by living together in peace and goodwill. The Network consists of leaders from a broad range of beliefs and communities including but not limited to Aboriginal, Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish and Sikh.” 

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City of Greater Dandenong – a few surprises.

Helen delighted in sharing a few hidden secrets about Greater Dandenong which she feels locals cherish.  The City of Greater Dandenong is home to:

  • -the largest outdoor go kart racing track in Victoria
  • -the only cable park in Victoria
  • -a race track the same size as Flemington Racecourse
  • -one of the only three Drive-In’s in Victoria

and finally, the delightfully iconic Dandy Pig neon sign became immortalised on an official Australian postage stamp in August 2015.

“We promote the area aby saying, you don’t need to travel overseas, you don’t need a passport, just visit the City of Greater Dandenong to get your diverse cultural experience”, concluded Helen.

View the City of Greater Dandenong’s Discover Your Own Backyard video.

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