Welcome back to Geelong!
BUSINESSES, tourism operators and residents across the Geelong region are already celebrating, with tomorrow’s 6pm certainty that doors will open, Melburnians will be back, and friends and family can reunite.
The Melbourne Cup long weekend has traditionally been a big weekend, kicking off the summer season for hospitality and tourism-based businesses that rely heavily on Melbourne visitors.
After more than 18 months of pandemic uncertainty, the state government’s announcement that from 6pm tomorrow, Melbourne and regional Victoria would be one again, masks outdoors would be optional, and most restrictions were likely to end within a month, has provided great relief.
Tourism Greater Geelong and The Bellarine executive director Brett Ince said Melbourne Cup weekend was usually a bumper weekend and as soon as that announcement was made on the weekend, the region’s tourism and hospitality operators started to see lots of bookings.
“And not just bookings for accommodation but hospitality too, which is great to see; that understanding that you do need to book and you do need to be kind to our hospitality workers,” Mr Ince said.
“Our main market is Melbourne in terms of visitor economy; there’s been a lot of pent-up demand for Melburnians to come back.
“There’ll be a lot of family reunions and the opportunity to travel to catch up with family and friends, having lunch in Geelong, and that’s a great opportunity for our hospitality industry.
“Businesses are really excited to be able to open and have Melburnians back this weekend.”
Mr Ince said rapidly rising vaccination rates and the reassurance that the further easing of restrictions was only a month away was also “one of those real reliefs”.
“It does mean a lot of those businesses that were the first to close and the last to reopen – particularly events and larger weddings – are able to plan for summer.
“We know that flicking the switch was quite challenging for people, so to know on Sunday that restrictions would ease Friday, and then to have that month to consider what a hospitality business looks like (after 90 per cent vaccinated) and to be able to hire staff, has given them an opportunity to plan.”
Geelong hospitality owner Gorge Camorra, who owns 13th Amendment and Manhattan Bar, admits he almost cried when he watched Sunday’s announcement – which will make little difference to his business tomorrow – but gave some certainty that business could be back to some sort of normal from November 24.
“It was so overwhelming; I haven’t made any money for a year and a half, and I’ve been trying to retain staff but there’s been a mass exodus of people leaving the industry.
“The changes on Friday make no real difference to us; we still have the four-square-metre rule.
“But with the changes around November 24, we finally have a date for when we can really start to open up and I don’t care it’s a month away, at least they’ve told us,” Mr Camorra said.
“It’s a massive weight off our shoulders, a massive relief.”
From 6pm tomorrow, October 29, Melbourne and Regional Victoria will have the same restrictions, masks outdoors will no longer be mandatory and most indoor venues open with a one person per four square metres, if all staff and patrons are fully vaccinated.
Most outdoor setting limits will remain at one person per two square metres, with a 500 limit, where staff and patrons are fully vaccinated.
The next milestone in the Roadmap will be when Victoria hits the 90-per-cent double-dose vaccination target for Victorians 12 years and over, predicted to be as early as November 24, when caps or density quotients will be removed for all settings, and masks will only be mandatory indoors in some high-risk settings.