Tourism slump: Ballarat challenged to attract more Victorian visitors

BALLARAT Regional Tourism (BRT) is concerned nationwide declines in intrastate tourism are affecting the largest visitor group attracted to the city. 

Tomorrow, the tourism body will present its half-yearly report to Ballarat City Council, which reveals a decline in the city’s intrastate visitation figures by almost 15 per cent to June 2013 from the previous year.

Victorians visiting Ballarat still made up more than 70 per cent of the tourist numbers, but this percentage is slipping in favour of other tourist groups.

The report also outlines that a similar drop in intrastate travel has been reflected across Australia during the past decade. 

Ballarat Regional Tourism chief executive George Sossi said one of the biggest challenges Ballarat faced was over-familiarity with the destination. 

“We are very much (a city) based on history and heritage, but if you look at Ballarat today, it is different from five or six years ago,” Mr Sossi said. 

Mr Sossi said visitation may be down because tourists held on to the image of Ballarat they had as children. 

Other challenges BRT are facing include a competitive Melbourne market, low-cost airline carriers and a strong Australian dollar enticing travellers overseas and attracting tourists to town outside peak periods.

The latest BRT visitation data available was for the second half of the 2012-13 financial year, between January and June 2013. 

Mr Sossi said data between July and December 2013 would not be made available by Tourism Research Australia until next month, but these will be boosted by including visitor numbers from the Royal South Street Competition after a partnership with BRT.

Mr Sossi noted the impending visitation data was recorded during the traditionally quieter months in the industry.

Since then, BRT has embarked on a Summer Fling campaign in 2013-14 to steer tourists to Ballarat instead of the beach over the warmer seasons in a bid to reap $5 million for the tourist market. 

Mr Sossi said Ballarat’s event market was bustling and helped attract day-trippers to town. 

“We have a strong and vibrant event market which we have been concentrating on for some time that is helping growth in Ballarat,” he said.

BRT will partner with Tourism Victoria to develop strategies to drive more visitors to the city in the future. 

Statistics from national and international visitor surveys between the July and December 2013 period are expected to be released by Tourism Research Australia next month.