ACCOMMODATION providers are welcoming guests back to the Bellarine as restrictions ease and regional Victorians are finally free to enjoy a change of scenery.
Lon Retreat owner Claire Gemes said the luxury hotel had only opened for 12 days since March 23 and the team was excited to throw open the doors again while working within COVID guidelines.
Ms Gemes said the seven-suite hotel would usually be booked out but was currently about 50 per cent full, while the spa was 100 per cent booked with a waiting list.
She said bookings were at capacity from the original trigger date of October 26 when metro Melbourne restrictions had been proposed to ease in line with the coronavirus reopening roadmap.
“From then we are just back to back with Melbourne guests pretty much for the rest of the year and February and March 2021 are also starting to fill up,” she said.
“All of Melbourne is banging down the door – they are so excited to come down so I guess we are crossing our fingers we can open up with those trigger points.”
Ms Gemes said there were long waiting lists for weekend bookings after October 26 and international bookings were starting to come in for the second half of 2021.
In the meantime, guests enjoying a stay at the exclusive Point Lonsdale retreat were from the Bellarine, Surf Coast and Greater Geelong, with some from as far as Sale and Echuca.
“People are not necessarily wanting to go far but just have that five-star indulgence they are so craving after lockdown,” she said.
“Guests are really seeking places with a lot of space that are also intimate and boutique.
“It’s really exciting for the region that we have the relaxed coastal environment which aligns so well with a COVID recovery mindset.”
BIG4 Bellarine Holiday park owner Sophie Bone said the park was 40 per cent full when it would usually be booked out in September.
Ms Bone said while the lack of Melbourne visitors had a big impact, it was wonderful to welcome regional guests to the park which had only opened for five weeks in the past six months.
“The regional people are just absolutely gorgeous to deal with and very happy and thankful to have a change of scene,” she said.
“It’s really quite special what’s happening at the moment – people are showing a gratitude just for being able to move around.
“The appetite to get away is extremely high which is great for this industry because we are very well placed to meet the pent-up demand.”
Ms Bone said while some families were still a little gun shy about travelling to far from home, forward bookings for January through to Easter in 2021 were strong.
“These businesses mean nothing when they are empty because it’s actually the people, laughter, the colour and interaction that makes these places come alive,” she said.
“It will be an unbelievable day when the park is full and everyone is smiling.”
Tourism Greater Geelong and The Bellarine acting executive director Tracey Carter said forward bookings for the region were encouraging and confidence was starting to build.
Ms Carter said local residents would play a critical role in helping the tourism industry get back on its feet.
“I like to say the biggest tourist attraction in Geelong is the people who live here,” she said.
“We know that with 50 per cent of our visitation, one of things they do is visit a friend or family member here.
“Geelong residents can be real ambassadors for our industry by getting friends and family from elsewhere to come down and enjoy experiences with them like going out for dinner or sitting on the lawn at Flying Brick Cider and having some lunch and a drink.”