TOURISM is officially a billion-dollar-plus industry for south-west Victoria, with new figures showing domestic visitors alone spent an estimated $1.6 billion during the 12 months to the end of March.
The Great Ocean Road (GOR) marketing region, which stretches from Geelong to the South Australian border and north to Hamilton, was by far the largest tourism drawcard in regional Victoria for the year.
Analysis of a national visitor survey by Tourism Research Australia shows the GOR region had 5.3 million domestic day trippers and 2.7 million domestic overnight visitors, representing a positive turnaround on a slight negative trend in the previous decade.
Overnight expenditure was up 23.6 per cent, while day trippers’ spending was down six per cent on a 12-month comparison.
Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism group chairman Wayne Kayler-Thompson said the figures were encouraging after the domestic tourism industry had been through a flat time.
“I’d like to think it’s the start of a turnaround,” Mr Kayler-Thompson said.
He said many regional tourism operators reported good summer business.
Lacklustre economic conditions had also helped the domestic tourism industry by encouraging more Australians to holiday at home, Mr Kayler-Thompson said.
Many Australians had been encouraged to travel overseas in previous years when the Australian dollar was higher, he said.
Great South Coast Group chairman Chris O’Connor said the lift in overnight expenditure for GOR visitors was good news.
The Corangamite Shire mayor said the figures indicated the big effort to get more GOR visitors to stay overnight and provide a bigger return to the region was making some traction.
The Grampians region reaped an estimated $345 million from domestic tourism for the 12 months to March with a 70 per cent surge in day-trip expenditure and a negative 1.7 per cent in overnight stays.
An estimated 1.02 million day trippers, up 31 per cent, went to the Grampians which was recovering from devastating bushfires and storm damage while overnight visits rose by 1.9 per cent.
The statewide picture shows domestic day-trip visitation to and within Victoria decreased by 3.6 per cent for the year in line with a 3.5 per cent national fall while overnight visitation in Victoria rose 6.9 per cent and nationally by 4 per cent.
The national visitor survey was the first time interviews had been carried out on mobile phones as well as landlines.
Mobile phone respondents reported shorter length of stays and lower per trip expenditure for overnight trips, but higher expenditure per night and higher rates of intrastate overnight travel.