October 29, 2021 | By Graeme Kemlo

It has been less than two weeks since the Yarra Valley opened to Melburnians and they already have strong bookings through the first quarter of 2022, but there’s an unexpected COVID effect now in play.

“People are not being driven by price nearly as much…they just want their own experience they feel very safe doing…they don’t want the added layer of worrying about who else is there,” says Brook Powell, Marketing and PR Manager for Yarra Ranges Tourism, which covers the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges.

“That’s quite a shift for a lot of our operators out here to get their heads around,” she says.

“There have been requests for a reduction in touch points in terms of people getting from their car to their room and that is completely understandable.  But the large private houses we have out here as B&Bs with up to 10 or 12 rooms – they are already getting enquiries for whole families and groups to [exclusively] take them over.”

Among the local suppliers she said Warburton Adventure Company is one example of an organisation that runs group tours for up to 10 people such as caving, abseiling and mountain biking. They are finding customers don’t want people they don’t know on a tour saying, “We don’t want anyone else…how much is it for you to just take us four?” When told it might be too expensive to do it that way the response from visitors is, “We don’t care how much it costs, we just want to be a private group.”