Victorian tourism industry unites for push to reopen visitor economy

Leading representatives of Victoria’s tourism industry have launched a proposal to reopen the state’s visitor economy using safe and staged processes that have worked in other states.

Industry leaders have undertaken a detailed review of gradual reopenings underway in NSW, SA and Queensland, and have put forward an alternative roadmap for Victoria to allow business to resume operations under strict safety controls.

Within the industry’s proposed framework indoor dining would be permitted at the next easing of restrictions with a cap of 20 people seated indoors per space, with up to two spaces per venue (for a maximum of 40 customers), under the one person per four square metre rule.

If case numbers and type remain controlled, the next goal would be to move to one person per two square metres, and then to ultimately remove caps. Cleaning, signage and record keeping requirements would consistently apply. Large scale venues seating 100-plus would be able to negotiate reasonable caps within density quotient requirements.

Business events would operate with up to 50 people from 30 October, including venue staff, hosts and delegates, subject to the one person per four square metre rule, and subject to the business registering as COVID Safe and having an approved COVID Safe Plan.

If case numbers and type remain controlled, the goal would be to increase the cap to 100 by 1 December and move to one person per 2 square metre rule on 1 January.

Open-air attractions and outdoor venues would operate subject to the one person per four square metre rule within the expanse of their total footprint and subject to the business registering as COVID Safe and having an approved COVIDSafe Plan.

As in other states, a family bubble would count as one within the patron cap limitations (one per four square metre). This would allow operations like helicopters, hot air balloons and commercial tour vehicles to operate and make outdoor adventure boat trips viable.

The industry groups said it was clear Victoria could not reach the benchmarks the Andrews Government set in its roadmap and it was time for a new approach.

“The Victorian tourism industry has been bleeding jobs and revenue since the 2019 bushfires. Some Victorian businesses had a chance to reopen after the first lockdown, but this time around we were told no, and we understood that when case numbers were sky high,” said Victoria Tourism Industry Council CEO Felicia Mariani.

“However, it has been incredibly hard for us to see NSW accommodation, business events, attractions and dining opening when they have similar daily case numbers to those we are seeing now in Victoria.

“NSW had more new cases than Victoria multiple times this week, but they proceeded with plans to double the number of people allowed in outdoor venues and increased the number of people allowed at outdoor concerts to 500.

“It’s time for the Victorian Government to change gear and focus on measures that will ensure safety while businesses operate because extending the shutdown cannot be a permanent solution to COVID-19.”

Kate Smith, chair of Meetings and Events Australia, said business events already kept detailed registration information on every delegate that could be used for contract tracing, with technology solutions such as apps and wearables available to track contacts and ensure people stay 1.5m apart.

“The sector, which once employed almost 85,000 people, including 3000 in the regions, is looking at 12 months of close to zero revenue,” Smith said.

“Given current restrictions, Victoria is not able to operate virtual events from broadcast studios. Business event organisers have cancelled, moved to virtual or have postponed 62% of their business in the first quarter of 2021 and 57% for the first half of 2021.

“Some business events have been lost to other states. Business events by their very nature take time to plan and implement. Once permission is given, there will be a lag time of up to 12 months to bring some of the large high economic yield events to market.”

Accommodation Association CEO Dean Long said it was time for a more “commonsense approach that strikes a better balance”.

“The reality is that unless this happens sooner rather than later, more businesses including hotels and accommodation providers will be forced to shut their doors for good,” he said.