‘Some businesses won’t be back’: Plea for help as Victorian tourism takes $19.5b hit

The coronavirus pandemic has hit Victoria’s tourism sector harder than any other state’s, dealing it a $19.5 billion blow and prompting industry pleas for urgent help.

Many tourism operators are bracing for more economic woes with JobKeeper now expired and the holiday season set to end after Easter and the school holidays.

Victoria’s tourism industry suffered a 60 per cent year-on-year revenue declineCredit:Paul Jeffers

The Victorian Tourism Industry Council is urging the state government to invest a further $8 million in another round of travel vouchers specifically for metropolitan Melbourne, which has been hit hardest by the shockwaves running through the tourism sector.

Victoria’s tourism industry generated $32.5 billion in 2019, with the latest figures representing a 60 per cent year-on-year decline. Melbourne was by far the worst-affected area in the state, accounting for almost three-quarters of the total loss.

Across the nation, tourism spending fell by 51 per cent to $74.1 billion last year, according to Tourism Research Australia. The federal government body said the results showed the devastating effect of the 2019-20 bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last year started with bushfires, and then came the pandemic.Credit:Getty Images

The Victorian Tourism Industry Council is also calling for a $100 million survival package to support supply chain businesses in the events sector, in addition to a $200 million innovation and development fund for major attractions and improving tourism infrastructure.

It also wants an aviation recovery strategy, to lure airline services to Melbourne and Avalon airports.

Regional tourism businesses are expecting a bumper Easter holiday period, but many are concerned about what lies beyond the busy warmer months.

Victorian Tourism Industry Council chief executive Felicia Mariani said she was working with the state government to support the sector.

She said tourism spending in the state had not been so low since 2005.

Victorian Tourism Industry Council chief Felicia Mariani says the sector needs government help.

“Our industry has been hit particularly hard, and we know that some businesses simply won’t be
able to come back,” she said.

“In order to regain our position as an economic powerhouse for Victoria, the sector will need the state government to assist us in bringing this plan to life.”

The latest round of 50,000 travel vouchers that allow Victorians to claim $200 if they spend more than $400 on accommodation, attractions or tours in regional areas of the state were snapped up within three minutes earlier this week.

Ms Mariani said Melbourne had suffered particularly badly because it relied on overseas and interstate travellers, as well as major events that draw big crowds.

A state government spokesman called on the federal government to do more, including expand its half-price flight scheme to more Victorian airports.

“We have stood with the tourism industry and continue to work with the sector to help businesses as they recover,” he said.

Destination Phillip Island Regional Tourism Board general manager Kim Storey said the number of visitors who stayed overnight at the holiday spot declined by 46 per cent in the year to December. She said the tourism industry needed help.

“We’re still waiting on a strong recovery plan to be announced for the visitor economy from the state government,” she said.

Ms Storey said the coming school holidays would be the “last hurrah” for the Phillip Island region until visitors returned in larger numbers, usually in September or October.

“I think the voucher scheme could certainly have another round to get people out in winter in particular,” she said.

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