Road to recovery: Geelong tourist body backs blueprint to save sector

April 8, 2021 BY

VTIC's plan suggests adding more direct flights to and from Avalon Airport. Photo: AVALON AIRPORT

GEELONG’S tourism industry is supporting calls for more than $1 billion of state government investment to be injected into the industry to offset losses of nearly $20 billion.

Last week, the Victorian Tourism Industry Council (VTIC) launched its tourism recovery blueprint, which outlines further spending in marketing, events support, industry strengthening, product development and aviation over the next three to five years.

According to VTIC, Victoria’s tourism sector has been hit harder than any other state, with a decline of 60 per cent year-on-year in tourism spend, a net loss of $19.5 billion to the year ending December 2020, and Victorian visitor spend at its lowest point since 2005.

The key initiatives in the Visitor Economy Recovery Submission 2.0 include a contestable Product Development and Innovation Fund valued at $200 million per annum for four years to support major attractions and infrastructure improvement, $100 million for a Relief and Survival Package for the supply chain that supports the events sector, and the development and funding of an aviation recovery strategy to attract direct airline services back to Avalon and Melbourne airports.

Industry leaders and regional tourism boards from across the state have contributed to the blueprint, including Tourism Greater Geelong and the Bellarine (TGGB).

TGGB executive director Brett Ince said the blueprint showed how long the road to recovery would be for the tourism industry, and the need for ongoing funding.

“Our economy really does need this support, and while there’s been a number of initiatives that have come out recently, it does show at the moment in certain sectors, particularly those tour operators who are reliant on international visitation, those businesses really need to continue to be supported to get them through to the other side,” Mr Ince said.

“We’re not going to see pre-COVID levels of economic contribution and visitation until about 2024, so this isn’t something that going to change overnight with one initiative.

“What the blueprint does say is that there’s a number of initiatives that are needed to make sure we keep the tourism industry above water until it does recover in future years.”

Mr Ince said the aviation recovery strategy proposed adding more cities at Avalon Airport for people to fly to and arrive from, but declined to nominate a city or cities that would seem most likely.

“Domestic and interstate travel is part of the sector and visitation that can continue to grow over this time,” he said.

“We know Avalon is transitioning back to services with Adelaide, Gold Coast and Sydney, but what are the other destinations that should be considered?”

Victoria’s peak tourism accommodation body has also called for venue patron capacity limits to be further lifted across the state.

Tourism Accommodation Australia (Victoria) general manager Dougal Hollis said COVIDSafe trading restrictions were continuing but several support measures were no longer in place, so it remained very tough for hotel businesses to meet rising operational costs.

He said hotels should be allowed to trade at the venue capacity limits as stipulated on their liquor licences instead of a maximum of 50 per cent, as the average occupancy levels of about 40 per cent for March was unsustainable.

Mr Ince said occupancy levels in Geelong and the Bellarine were harder to determine, as it would depend on the accommodation venue’s size and its indoor and outdoor capacity.

“We know there’s some venues that are operating at those sorts of levels (40 per cent); it’s mainly those that are smaller in nature and do not have as much space.”

To read the Visitor Economy Recovery Submission 2.0, head to vtic.com.au.

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