By Graeme Kemlo

On its first full day as a re-united state, Victoria recorded a “double donut day” as they refer to zero new COVID-19 infections and zero deaths.

The ring of steel dividing metropolitan Melbourne from its regions was lifted early Monday and a steady stream of vehicles headed for the popular playgrounds of the Mornington Peninsula and the Yarra Valley. Some families and friends had been separated for seven months.

To coincide with the COVID restrictions being eased the government has launched an advertising campaign: “Stay Close, Go Further.”  Visit Victoria chief executive Brendan McClements said the domestic overnight intrastate market was worth $9 billion last year.

He said the campaign featured people more than places.

“What makes Victoria so special is the creative, entrepreneurial, passionate people behind our tourism businesses,” he said.

“The campaign tells the stories of the products and experiences that exist within our borders and we trust it will inspire Victorians to make some new discoveries.”

When he announced the eased restrictions, premier Daniel Andrews said the government intended to focus on two of the worst affected regions – Gippsland to the east and Victoria’s High Country in the north east. Both were badly impacted by the summer bushfires.

The latest tourism figures for the June 2020 quarter show domestic overnight tourism numbers for the High Country down 29 per cent and spend down 32 per cent. Gippsland’s domestic visitor numbers were also down 12 per cent, with spend down nine per cent. But a more significant story was told by Gippsland’s international tourism visitation. There were 30 per cent fewer visitors and their spend for the period declined 34 per cent. This is mostly explained by the popular Philip Island penguin parade being located in the region.

Gippsland, which starts about an hour east of the city and runs east to the NSW border had significant summer bushfires that also impacted tourism as they burned for more than 90 days.

As a business events destination, Gippsland offers a diverse range of venues and activities from the penguins and Moto GP races on Phillip Island to the large Gippsland Lakes network which hosts tens of thousands of nature-focused visitors throughout the year.

Destination Gippsland reports its capacity for events as “3935 meeting capacity, 39 meeting rooms and 558 accommodation rooms.”  These include state-of-the-art performing arts centres and large-scale event and conference centres.