By Graeme Kemlo

Victoria’s tourism industry has criticised the latest COVID-19 roadmap restrictions announced by premier Daniel Andrews, calling it a “shot to the heart.”

Victoria Tourism Industry Council (VTIC) CEO, Felicia Mariani, described the industry as “haemorrhaging, on track to lose $23 billion in visitor spending at a cost of 165,000 jobs.”

She said the industry had supported the government’s planning and roadmap, but appeared to have lost patience with the Andrews government, declaring: “businesses large and small were hoping for a lifeline of income from the upcoming Grand Final and Melbourne Cup long weekends. These are peak periods that, yet again, the industry will lose.’’

Under the restrictions announced Sunday and further explained today, small businesses will not be reopening until November 1.

Much of the Victorian tourism industry is in Melbourne and adjacent regions such as the Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula, both of which have been locked down for more than 100 days, despite requests to allow the two semi-rural regions, which have much lower population densities than suburban Melbourne, exemptions from the Melbourne lockdown. The government has not moved from its original decision to include them in the so-called “ring of steel.”

“To see that this week, even as cases hit one or two per day, there is still no plan or firm date to reopen our industry is heartbreaking. We need clarity and direction now so we can plan and prepare,” Ms Mariani said.

She said the industry had developed an alternate plan to lift restrictions by October 31 to open their tourism and events and to operate safely and effectively.

“We need the Andrews government to recognise and respect the work and effort the industry is putting into its Covid safe planning and be given the chance to be a partner in revitalising Victoria’s economy.”

Business Events Victoria (BEV) board member for the Mornington Peninsula region, Angela Cleland, confirmed that her region had requested exemption from the Melbourne lockdown when it was first announced.

“Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula do take the lion’s share of tourism for the state,” she said.

“We get about 8.6 million visitors down here every year… that’s worth $1.3 billion to the visitor economy.”

Apart from natural attractions such as the coast – the peninsula comprises 10 per cent of Victoria’s coastline – fresh foods and world-class pinot noir wines are popular, she said.