August 31, 2021 | By Graeme Kemlo

The news this week is expected to be both good and bad for Melbourne, with an extension to its current lockdown certain and tighter restrictions possible, plus the likely loss of the AFL Finals series worth more than $300 million to the city.

Perth is set to benefit by more than $10 million when the AFL confirms as expected that the game will move to Optus Stadium Perth, rather than have a 100,000 crowd at the MCG. The league has indicated that the Perth stadium is the standby venue should it not be possible for the match to go ahead in Victoria in less than a month’s time.

Last year’s Grand Final was played in Brisbane but pre-COVID, the 2019 event saw Melbourne hotels earned $13.5 million in accommodation from the Grand Final according to the Victorian Tourism Industry Council (VTIC), while interstate residents spent almost $50 million to fly into Melbourne for the 2019 Grand Final at the MCG.

However Melbourne’s one bright spot is the announcement expected this week that the twice-cancelled Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix will go ahead in April attracting 340,000 people across the three days.

Melbourne’s F1 GP, AFL Grand Final, Spring Racing Carnival and Australian Open Tennis Grand Slam are Australia’s largest sporting events and economists have estimated they contribute more than $1.8 billion to the Victorian economy. They are the springboard for business tourism and corporate events worth tens of millions of dollars injected by the services sector in support of both interstate and international visitors.

Business tourism industry watchers are hopeful that last week’s announcement by Qantas that it was flying long haul aircraft back home from storage in the USA and would commence international flights from mid-December was based on government insider information, not wishful thinking.

In the pre-COVID year to December 2019, 542,000 international visitors came to Victoria for business, stayed a total of 2,803,000 nights and spent $560 million.

Meanwhile the VTIC CEO Felicia Mariani said the extended lockdown for Melbourne had frozen the city’s tourism and events businesses.

Quoting research conducted by the Tourism and Transport Forum in collaboration with Stafford Strategy, she said Victoria was losing $1.34 billion per month from the lack of domestic visitors and the tourism sector had lost 156,000 tourism jobs to July 2021.

On a national basis, the research showed losses would top $9.2 billion per month in total tourism spend with 610,000 direct and indirect job losses in a sector that used to employ over one million people.