January 21, 2022 | By Graeme Kemlo

Parts of regional Victoria are up 200 percent in tourism-related revenues, “but one good summer does not make a recovery” warns the executive officer of Business Events Victoria (BEV), Chris Porter.

“This is the period when many Victorian regions make most of their money, but a lot of our tourism operators – not just hotels and accommodation, but tour operators and attractions – are paying down debts they have incurred staying afloat over the past two years.

“We are hearing popular destinations are up 200 percent in the leisure sector and it is great, but from an industry perspective there’s not going to be a full recovery for four or five years,” said Porter.

While many visitors had fled Melbourne suburbs for the open air of country towns, staff shortages and virus cancellations were still limiting local operators.

Porter said he was sent a photo of the bus parking lot at the Twelve Apostles and there was only one coach parked in an area that held about 12.  Coach owners and tour operators were surprised at the fall in demand as many visitors to places like the Great Ocean Road opted to self-drive, not wanting to spend the day in a 48-seater.

Alongside the joy for leisure businesses was the disappointment that business events were being postponed or cancelled in a number of regions.  Porter said BEV fielded strong inquiries late last year for short-lead events to be held in February and March, but these were now under reconsideration.

However, he said the Victorian Tourism Industry Council was proceeding as planned with its tourism awards night at Melbourne Town Hall next month and BEV was co-hosting a stand at AIME with Geelong and about five regions in March.

He described these events as confidence boosters the industry needed.

*This article was updated at 1.13pm on Friday January 21 to reflect the fact that coach owners and tour operators were surprised by the fall in demand.