BOOKINGS as far away as May 2021 have been cancelled across the Limestone Coast tourism sector as the impacts of the global COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak and Australia’s devastating summer bushfires start to show.
While Limestone Coast Local Government Association tourism industry development manager Biddie Shearing said it was still too early to understand the full impact of the events, she reaffirmed the region’s industry was in a strong position on a national scale.
The association is preparing to host a series of community consultations across the region to shape a new strategic tourism plan and develop a Limestone Coast regional marketing plan – the first in 10 years.
Reflecting on the current global climate with both the COVID-19 outbreak and the bushfire crisis, Ms Shearing said she was interested to view data once it became available.
“We have seen some operators having to cancel forward through to May next year, so there is impact occurring and of course that will have flow on through our economy – it is not just a hotel or a restaurant, it is the all the bits and pieces that hang off,” she said.
“The consultations are a great opportunity to create mitigation strategies so we are even more prepared future problems.
“But the Australian tourism sector has been in a really good position apart from these issues and our region has definitely benefited from that upswell.
“I do not think we are at tourism capacity yet though, I know we have some areas across the region where it gets a little bit full in some sometimes of the year but other times of the year we have troughs, so it is about finding ways to even that out and grow our yield all year round during these consultations.”
Ms Shearing said the consultations were the perfect opportunity for people to share their views on the region’s tourism sector.
“We are attempting to bring together everybody’s thoughts, ideas and pie-in-the-sky ideas about how we can market the region, how we get growth out of it and bring more visitors and high yielding customers to our tourism businesses right across the region,” she said.
“Operators might have ideas they would like to contribute, but we are open to anybody.
“You do not have to be just a tourism operator you can be a resident – anyone can come along and share thoughts and ideas.”
Working in her current role for around 13 years, Ms Shearing said the consultations were a time for her to step back and let the community take the lead.
“I do not have any preconceived ideas about what we need apart from I think that we could potentially leverage the Great Ocean Road a little more,” she said.
“The Great Ocean Road does get a lot of visitation and we know visitors either do not come through to our part of the region, or they and they turn up and go back and stay in Victoria.
“We feel like there is an opportunity to showcase ourselves to those visitors, but I am really excited to hear everybody’s ideas because I am probably little bit too close to it so it will be nice to have fresh eyes on the situation.”
The community workshops will start in Bordertown on Monday, with a full list of locations printed in Friday’s edition of The Border Watch.