Impact of budget cuts to Visit Victoria could take years to recover

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The move to slash Visit Victoria’s budget has been described as disappointing at a time when the State’s visitation still remains lower than pre-Covid levels.

The Victorian Government cut the tourism body’s funding by three quarters, with, $32.5 million allocated across four years, the same figure it had to spend in a single year in the last budget.

The funding cuts to Visit Victoria come at a time when visitation to Victoria remains 11 per cent lower than pre-Covid levels, with the number of international visitors still around two thirds what it was, according to the latest figures.

Victorian Tourism Industry Council chief Felicia Mariani said the move was “extremely disappointing and sobering”.

“This is a clear indication that the government does not understand the sensitive and complex ecosystem that is destination marketing,” she told the Herald Sun.

“Our industry is a highly competitive industry, a complex ecosystem that relies on so many different levers being in the intrastate arena, interstate and overseas, and if you upset that sensitive balance across those three streams of destination promotion, the implications can be far reaching.

“When you make these mistakes like this it could take years to recover, and you have to spend a lot more money recovering.

“This is our concern, because if we go backwards here, and if we lose the territory that we will inevitably lose, we’re going to have to spend more money to play catch up with what we lost than if we just would have made a decent commitment to destination promotion.”

While overall visitor numbers to Victoria remain down on pre-pandemic levels, tourism spending increased by $5.4 billion last year on pre-Covid levels to a record $37.8 billion.

Mariani said while Melbourne’s major events calendar did a “phenomenal” job of attracting interstate visitors, it was vital to capitalise on that demand.

“But the challenge will be, how long will they stay, how far will they disperse, and how much money will they actually spend while they’re here?” she said.

Opposition tourism spokesman Sam Groth said the Allan government has “no idea how destination marketing works”.

“If they engaged with anyone in the sector, they would know that major events are only a small piece of the puzzle for attracting visitors to the state,” he said.

“It’s already clear that global visitors are not choosing Victoria as their preferred Australian destination, and with these cuts we will only fall further behind New South Wales and Queensland.”