Figures presented to the Council on Tuesday night detail the devastating financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the local tourism industry.
Regional tourism board Tourism Greater Geelong and the Bellarine’s 2019-20 annual report reveals that between April and June 2020 alone, the visitor economy suffered a combined $280 million loss.
These losses were spread across the accommodation, hospitality, arts and retail sectors, which were all hit heavily by government restrictions aimed at slowing the rate of COVID-19 infection.
The report estimates that 2187 jobs were lost in the local accommodation and food services industries as a result of the pandemic, with a further 2308 employees reliant on the federal government’s JobKeeper payment.
Prior to the pandemic, the annual value of the Greater Geelong visitor economy had climbed to a record $1.1 billion, with the region attracting 6 million visitors in the 12 months to 31 March 2020.
Visitor nights spent in the region were up an impressive 10.3 per cent to 5.5 million, with the sector directly supporting 7551 jobs and indirectly supporting a further 3,713.
Mayor Stephanie Asher said the tourism board had done an admirable job in the face of enormous challenges during the last three months of the financial year and into 2020-21.
“Tourism Greater Geelong and the Bellarine quickly adapted and put support measures in place to help tourism-reliant businesses as best they could,” Mayor Asher said.
“The organisation waived all membership fees between April and December this year while setting up a dedicated COVID-19 web resource centre and moving various events online.
“The team deserves congratulations for its efforts in an unbelievably difficult environment.”
On the last day of the financial year, the Council allocated $500,000 as part of a broader COVID-19 support package to fund targeted marketing campaigns by Tourism Greater Geelong and the Bellarine.
These will be delivered during the current financial year.
The Council allocated a further $133,000 for initiatives to support international students through the Tourism Greater Geelong and the Bellarine-run program, Study Geelong.
Council’s Tourism portfolio holder, Deputy Mayor Trent Sullivan, said strong visitation to the region this summer would be critical in helping the sector begin to recover.
“Until the unprecedented events of this year, Tourism Greater Geelong and the Bellarine had helped the industry achieve consistent and significant growth year after year,” Cr Sullivan said.
“The 2019-20 annual report paints a stark picture, but we must be optimistic that by this time next year our visitation figures will be back on the rise and the industry will return to its previous upwards trajectory.
“I’m extremely proud of what both the board and the staff of the organisation have achieved in unity during the 12 months covered by this annual report.”
Tourism Greater Geelong and the Bellarine is a partnership between member councils the City of Greater Geelong, Borough of Queenscliffe and Golden Plains Shire, and the tourism industry.
Following the introduction of a new free membership category in May 2020, the organisation signed 112 new member businesses to the end of the 2019-20 financial year, taking total membership to 617 local businesses.
This figure has since climbed to 808 members in November 2020.