Overnight visitors decrease but day trip tourists on the rise

TOURISM Research Australia (TRA) data has found fewer Victorians have been staying in Ballarat in the past decade. 

But Ballarat Regional Tourism claims the tourism sector is still on a growth curve, with day trips increasing. 

The TRA data found there was a 28 per cent decline in intrastate overnight visitors for holiday and leisure purposes to Ballarat in December 2013, compared to the previous year. 

In 2013, there were 109,000 intrastate overnight trips for holiday and leisure compared to 152,000 the year before. 

The data also found:

• Victorians spent 6 per cent fewer overnight trips in Ballarat in 2013 (546,000) than in 1999 (582,000). 

• Tourism was down in international markets, although not as severe as the intrastate figures. 

• 24 per cent fewer international tourists visited Ballarat for holiday and leisure purposes in 2013 (11,771) compared to 2000 (15,533). 

Ballarat Regional Tourism chief executive George Sossi said he did not focus on the segment breakdown of the TRA statistics and instead, relied on the total visitation, encompassing both day trips and overnight stays, in Ballarat.

“So what we look at is total visitation, we then look at what portion of that is day trips and what portion was night trips,” Mr Sossi said. 

“We use (the TRA) data as a guide, not the Bible. Because this does not reflect what is on the ground ... that’s what the operators tell us, and they tell us they’ve had a good year.”

When The Courier combined the total day trips with the overnight stays, total visitation in Ballarat had increased by 1 per cent from 2,091,000 visitors in 2012 to 2,111,000 in 2013. But while Ballarat’s day trip visitation increased, the overnight visitation decreased. Mr Sossi said the intrastate market – Victorian tourists visiting Ballarat – was a “troublesome” area. 

“The intrastate market from overnight visitors is down 15 per cent, the day trip market that is all intrastate is up,” he said. 

University of Technology Sydney senior lecturer in tourism Dr David Beirman said there were a lot of regional cities that struggled to attract overnight stays. 

“A lot of places that are a couple hundred kilometres from (big cities) increases the tendency (for tourists) to do them as day trips, instead of overnight stays,” Dr Beirman said. 

He said tourism was “all well and good” in Ballarat, but there was a reason to be concerned if Ballarat could not convert its day trips into overnight stays. 

“I think there is a reason to be concerned by the overnight stays,” he said.  “It is not something to panic about, but there is not a conversion of day trips to overnight stays.”

Federation University Australia Senior Lecturer in Tourism Dr Elisa Backer said Ballarat needed more product to entice tourists to stay longer. 

“In terms of maximising the benefits from that visiting friends and relatives market,  it needs more product,” she said. 

“The destinations that are serious about being in tourism are open seven days a week because tourism is seven days a week.”