Bendigo will struggle without ability to hold regular events

Intrastate visitors alone cannot sustain the Bendigo region’s recovery. That’s the stark message from the region’s tourism leaders after Tourism Research Australia’s latest data showed Victoria recorded a $1.4 billion plunge in overnight domestic spending for October last year to $1.642 billion.

Speaking to the Bendigo Advertiser, Victorian Tourism industry Council CEO Felicia Mariani said “intrastate tourism cannot sustain a full recovery”.

“A large proportion of that ($1.4 billion fall) would come from interstate visitors,” she said. “This is the challenge for the industry.

“We experienced snap border closures, the latest at Christmas, and it has shaken to core the confidence of consumers to travel interstate. No one wants to be on the wrong side of a border closure.”

Marani said destinations that relied on events would be hardest hit without the ability to hold them on a regular basis.

“Events play a huge part in Bendigo’s and Ballarat’s (make up),” she said.

“Without the ability to activate events, it will be difficult and challenging. Geelong has done well because the coastal communities have done well. Other regional centres have struggled because they lost their drawcards.

“Most events have cancelled because they can’t afford to take the risk.

“The tourism industry is complex and has many layers. Not everyone is benefitting equally and the tourism industry is still in a world of pain.”

Bendigo Tourism Board chair Finn Vedelsby said it will be a “difficult recovery”.

“Without events and without international tourism, and even interstate tourism, with just Melbourne people coming to Bendigo, we’ll tick over,” he told the Bendigo Advertiser.

“There is a lot of lost ground to make up.

“I’m optimistic that more Melbourne people are coming to Bendigo than ever before but that $1.4 billion is going to be impossible to replace.

“It’s sad to hear some of major events have been cancelled but council is working closely with Bendigo Tourism Board to make Easter a family friendly event in COVID-safe environment. They are working tirelessly to keep small, ticketed events going so there is still something fun to bring the family and friends visitor demographic back to Bendigo.”