HOW many people in Ballarat would correctly be able to guess the city’s biggest tourist event?
One hint - it generates millions of tourist dollars each year and brings tens of thousands of people to the city.
The answer is Royal South Street Society.
It is probably fair to say most people underestimate how valuable South Street is to Ballarat.
Bringing in more than $7.5 million each year to the city over its three month duration, it is by far Ballarat’s biggest tourist event.
With more than 10,000 competitors entering each year, 75 per cent of which are visitors to the city, the impact of South Street can sometimes be underestimated.
Royal South Street Society marketing manager Emma Sbardella said the event was well known across Victoria and even interstate, but probably deserved more recognition within Ballarat.
“It is something that is just huge for Ballarat and Ballarat would be really lost without it,” she said.
“People from Ballarat know what it is but probably don’t appreciate for what it is and exactly what it does.”
This year is South Street’s 121st anniversary, having been founded in 1879.
It incorporates 14 performance disciplines with a team of 300 volunteers, which put in a total of about 16,500 volunteer hours each year.
More than half of the visitors who come, stay in Ballarat for between one and three nights, while 15 per cent stay for more than a week. Ms Sbardella encouraged Ballarat locals to start considering South Street as a genuine form of entertainment, rather than just something for those known to the competitors.
“A lot of people might go to the movies or something but we want them to consider South Street as a form of entertainment that people choose to come along to,” she said. Ballarat Regional Tourism chairman Stuart Benjamin said it was events like South Street that made Ballarat tick and that it was vital for the culture of the city.
“Royal South Street is a great tradition of Ballarat . It plays to our arts and cultural strengths and brings people from across Australia to town, filling a key sector of our tourism industry,” he said.
“The importance of having a wide, diverse events strategy that plays to our strengths is that across a twelve-month period all sectors of the tourism industry benefit.
The strength of Ballarat’s tourism sector has always been its diversity and ability to capitalise on the City’s many events - South Street is a great example of this formula at work.”