Regional cities are investing heavily in winter tourism activities in an attempt to attract visitors struggling with rising costs of living.
- Consumer confidence under pressure as rising spending hit household budgets
- The Victorian tourism authorities are hoping families will stay closer to home this school holiday.
- Event organizers are cautiously optimistic about the return of tourism
Winter Fest will kick off in Ballarat during the June school holidays with attractions such as ice skating and Sovereign Hill’s nighttime winter lights designed to draw Melbourne visitors to the region.
Meanwhile, Great Ocean Road regional tourism general manager Liz Price said her team is cautiously optimistic about the turnout.
“It always worries us when we see the cost of living rise, but it can also work in our favor,” Ms Price said.
“People who may be considering leaving may decide they’re better off staying closer to home to get more money and see more.”
Cost of living pressure
Ballarat’s regional tourism chief said he expects more people to stay close to home during the holiday season.
“It’s always important to balance your offer to the tourist, knowing that money is tight,” Mr Martino said.
“We are expecting over 100,000 people in our region and over half of them from outside Ballarat, so this is a real influx of people, and as we know, about half of them are probably visiting friends and relatives,” Mr. Mr Martineau.
Money is also on the mind of the team behind the Winter Wild musical arts event in Apollo Bay, which is resuming after being canceled twice due to COVID-19.
Event chairman Kevin O’Connell said ticket prices remain reasonable in light of pressure on the cost of living.
“One way to do this is to create a place where you want to live, a place where you want to spend time with your family and raise your children. And if you do that, other people will want to come.”
Can events return to normal?
The events have been one of the hardest hit sectors of the tourism economy during the pandemic, prompting many to leave.
Those who remained clung to the hope of tourism returning.
“I think there is a regression after COVID, and you know that our Heritage Festival, which has just ended, has received very strong support,” said Mr. Martineau.
“There is no reason to believe that winter will not be supported either.”
The loss of interstate travelers due to border closures has wiped out a $1 billion economy compared to pre-pandemic levels, making Victoria’s biggest loss in the region.