Victorians stay close to home during school holidays

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Victorian holiday attractions are reaching capacity and visitors are flocking to tourism towns as holidaymakers stay close to home while other states enforce lockdowns to control coronavirus outbreaks.

Tourism groups say rapidly changing rules about cross-border travel and the introduction of restrictions further north are encouraging Victorians to remain in their home state – both for holidays and day trips.

Spectators at the penguin parade at Phillip Island on Tuesday evening.Credit:Eddie Jim

Much of Queensland was placed in a three-day lockdown at 6pm Monday night, including Brisbane, Noosa, Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast.

Greater Sydney, Central Coast, Wollongong and the Blue Mountains are in a two-week lockdown. The Northern Territory government has also locked down Greater Darwin until Friday.

Destination Phillip Island Regional Tourism general manager Kim Storey said many families had come to spend the school holidays at the popular holiday spot.

“The cafes are pumping,” she said.

Ms Storey cited online bookings that showed accommodation was about 80 per cent full for the coming weekend.

She said lockdowns interstate and a general lack of confidence that borders would remain open meant many Victorians preferred to stay locally.

“They can’t go across the border now and return confidently,” she said.

Phillip Island Nature Park head of international sales and communications, Roland Pick, said the penguin parade has been consistently reaching its 1000 crowd capacity.

“That’s terrific for us,” he said.

Before the pandemic the penguin parade had a capacity of 3800 and relied heavily on international visitors but now mostly Victorians attend the natural attraction.

The penuin parade is attracting thousands of Victorians a week.

Nearby, the A Maze’N Things theme park on Phillip Island has also been close to reaching its current capacity, according owner Geoff Moed.

He said visitors generally had to wait about 30 minutes to get inside the theme park but they understood and took it in good spirits. “Most people have been positive. We haven’t had many complaints or angry customers,” he said.

Mr Moed said while his business generally attracted domestic visitors, those who relied on international guests faced major challenges.

“That’s where long-term Phillip Island will struggle a bit.”

The Macedon region has also been attracting many visitors during the school holidays. Credit:Rebecca Hallas

Daylesford Macedon Tourism chief executive Steve Wroe said the school holidays had been particularly busy in popular spots such as Daylesford so far.

“It’s very pleasing after those weeks of [Victoria’s] lockdown which really hurt businesses,” he said.

Mr Wroe said many Victorians knew someone whose trips interstate had been cancelled or experienced that themselves, which had led to greater demand for local holidays.

“It’s certainly helped particularly in winter time when people are tempted to go to warmer areas.”

Sovereign Hill head of external engagement, Mark Hemetsberger, said the three-week Winter Wonderlights festival was also reaching its capacity of about 4000 people at a time.

However, he said the festival at Sovereign Hill was geared towards visitors from Victoria with only a small number coming from interstate in previous years.

“We always built this around Victorian visitation,” Mr Hemetsberger said.

Mount Baw Baw general manager Andrew Tingate said bookings had already been strong for the school holidays. Credit:Justin McManus

On the ski fields at Mount Baw Baw, demand has been strong since Melbourne’s lockdown was lifted. Mount Baw Baw general manager Andrew Tingate said Melburnians made up the majority of visitors to the ski resort.

“In terms of accommodation we were solidly booked anyway before the school holidays,” he said.

Good weather has helped drive visitors to the Mornington Peninsula. But Mornington Peninsula Tourism Board chair Tracey Cooper said there were still plenty of accommodation vacancies.

Uncertainty over interstate borders is expected to encourage more people to take day trips on the Mornington Peninsula. Credit:Eddie Jim

She expected the latest lockdowns in NSW and Queensland would result in Victorians who cannot holiday interstate taking more day trips to the coast. Ms Cooper said local wineries and breweries may be among those who would benefit from increased day trips.

On the coast, Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism general manager Liz Price said it was too early to say whether demand would remain strong throughout the school holidays but businesses from Torquay to Apollo Bay were reporting they were quite busy.

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