Recovery could work in favour of local tourism

FOLLOWING bushfires, drought and the emergence of COVID-19, newly-released visitor data tells a positive story for Gippsland.

Tourism Research Australia figures for 2019 travel reveal that Gippsland’s visitor numbers increased by 11 per cent on the previous year, reaching almost 7.4 million – the highest recorded number of visitors ever to the region.

These are increases the region is unlikely to see again in 2020, however plans are in place for recovery tourism promotion when the time is right.

It has been a challenging few years for Gippsland.

Prolonged drought, followed by bushfires, have taken their toll on the local economy.

However the tourism industry is working together to promote the region and attract visitors to support local businesses.

Destination Gippsland has been working with local councils to promote visitation to drought-affected East Gippsland and Wellington Shire regions through a dedicated campaign throughout 2019.

More recently, Destination Gippsland’s and East Gippsland Marketing’s initial bushfire recovery marketing campaign drove visitors back to the region for the vital remaining weeks of the summer and helped generate a busy Labour Day weekend.

Australian Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham has advised that Australians should not expect to be able to travel overseas for the remainder of the year.

However, with travel restrictions between states likely to ease in coming months, people are instead being asked to start ‘dreaming’ about their perfect Australian getaway.

Destination Gippsland chief executive Terry Robinson said while these figures may feel far removed from the current state of tourism in the region, following the January 2020 bushfires and the COVID-19 restrictions, it was important to understand the strong position the region held in the eyes of consumers likely to be restricted to domestic travel for the foreseeable future.

“Our ‘Let’s Go To The Gippsland Lakes’ campaign, Tourism Australia’s ‘Holiday Here This Year,’ Visit Victoria’s ‘A Short Stay Goes A Long Way’ and broader social movements such as #emptyesky had already begun to shift the Australian psyche toward discovering their own backyard,” he said.

“This is now being reinforced by international travel restrictions.

“Domestic visitors make up nearly 90 per cent of visitor nights in Gippsland, and the numbers are rising – we have a lot to offer Australians planning to discover their own backyard.”

While travel restrictions are in place, Destination Gippsland has put a hold on actively marketing travel to the region, deferring planned marketing activity for later in the year where possible and working with tourism businesses to help them with getting through this difficult time.

Regular industry updates are being sent to businesses and loaded on the website, explaining grants and financial support available to tourism businesses.

These updates can be accessed via www.visitgippsland.com.au/destination-gippsland

While the region’s wineries, breweries and distilleries have had to close their cellar doors, Destination Gippsland is promoting a central point where consumers can find their favourite Gippsland drop online.

There are also free Australian Tourism Data Warehouse listings available via Destination Gippsland, which enable businesses to be listed on www.visitgippsland.com.au, www.visitvictoria.com and www.australia.com websites Destination Gippsland is working on a range of online training and business support initiatives to further support the industry, and will provide more information soon.