By Derek Schlennstedt
Puffing Billy continues to attract local and international visitors alike, with more than 487,000 passengers flocking to the iconic steam engine for the 2016-’17 period.
This marks the fifth consecutive record year for the popular tourist attraction with 487,237 passengers recorded in the 2016-’17 financial year – an increase of 17 per cent on the previous year.
In another record-breaking milestone Puffing Billy is now the highest patronage of any narrow gauge steam heritage railway in the world that is a volunteer-based, not for profit operation.
Puffing Billy Railway CEO, John Robinson, said the continued growth could be attributed to the increase in visitors from the Asian market, as well as regular repeat visitation from passengers who he said loved the local icon.
“The Asian market now represents over half of overall visitors, and we are working really hard to ensure they have an enjoyable experience at Puffing Billy,” Mr Robinson said.
“We have recently prepared a visitor information brochure in simplified Chinese, produced new promotional videos with simplified Chinese captions and have introduced recorded announcements in Mandarin on the Belgrave platform to cater for this immense growth.
“We are also really proud of the fact that generations of Melbournians have visited us for over 100 years.
Visitors love reliving their childhood memories by taking their children or grandchildren to experience Puffing Billy for the first time … it truly is a shared experience that creates lasting memories for the young and old alike.”
Puffing Billy relies on over 900 volunteers. Mr Robinson acknowledged their vital role in ensuring Puffing Billy remained operational.
“Our passionate and committed workforce, including over 900 volunteers, play a vital role in attracting people back to Puffing Billy … and these incredible visitation figures are an acknowledgement of this.”