MANY Ballarat businesses rely on tourism, but with so much competition from other destinations, are we doing enough to get on the must-see list?
The latest National Visitor Survey from Tourism Research Australia suggests we’re on the right track, with tourism numbers in our city up across all three categories measured.
Importantly, we are no longer just a day-trip destination, with increasing numbers of overnight domestic and international visitors putting the city on their must-see list.
For Golden Point Cafe owner Chris Mallard, attracting tourists to Ballarat and keeping them overnight is crucial.
With visitors making up about a quarter of her customer base, she said Ballarat’s tourism pull was doing a lot for her business.
“I get a lot of customers that stay in the motels around me,” she said.
“A lot of people come in for breakfast because Sovereign Hill doesn’t open until 10am. They often come in and they plan out their day.”
Ms Mallard said customer numbers had definitely grown in the past 12 months, the same period that Ballarat increased its tourism activity.
The National Visitors Survey data, for the year ending June 2012, shows that Ballarat increased its tourism activity substantially, with visitors spending nearly 1.4 million nights in the region, a jump of 27 per cent on the same period the year before.
Domestic overnight visitors jumped 19 per cent to 575,000 on the previous year, the highest figure in five years, and domestic day trip visitors increased 9.5 per cent to almost 1.6 million.
Ballarat’s share of the lucrative overseas tourism market also increased, with 22,500 international overnight visitors, up by 9.5 per cent.
Ballarat Regional Tourism (BRT) board member Steven Savic said international overnight stays would potentially be our biggest growth market in the next five years.
“It’s a market that will provide us with a completely new channel we’ve never had before,” he said.
Mr Savic said Ballarat was doing more than most regional centres to build its tourism base and had continued to invest in tourism during the global financial crisis when other destinations were pulling money out.
But he said we could not afford to be complacent.
He said a healthy tourism industry benefited just about every industry in the town.
“The focus is to consolidate and to continue to grow,” he said.
BRT director George Sossi said the drivers of tourism were constantly changing.
People wanted more short breaks and expected higher-quality services and facilities and a diversity of activities.
“Ballarat’s industry has risen with the challenge,” he said.