The latest Tourism Research Australia report has revealed an encouraging set of numbers for Ballarat’s tourism sector.
The report shows a 15 per cent increase of domestic travelers over the past financial year ending in June, with an approximate 2.5 million people visiting the city for an estimated economic input of more than $401 million.
It also indicates 658,000 domestic overnight visitors to Ballarat, 1.9 million domestic day-trippers and 29,300 international visitors.
While encouraged by the numbers, Ballarat Regional Tourism chief executive Noel Dempsey said the focus remains on ensuring they continue to grow after Ballarat prepares to this year host its second Archibald Prize – the annual portraiture prize that sees the likes of prime ministers, rock stars and Aussie heroes immortalised on canvas.
“Early signs are that we’ll exceed last year’s visitation figures (for the Archibald),” Mr Dempsey said.
“The Archibald’s will grow this year but we only have that for two years. Under the umbrella of that season of the arts, we have to look for something bigger and better next year.
“I see a more significant investment in winter next year, which should attract more people. The winter program is one of the keys.”
While he conceded it’s difficult to determine exact economic benefits for Ballarat based on tourism numbers, Mr Dempsey said the algorithm used by Tourism Research Australia to anticipate daily expenditure ($101), is useful if used consistently.
“It’s not our figure, it’s an industry figure,” he said.
“We can debate it, but when everyone uses the same figure you get some consistency.”
Meanwhile, Ballarat’s food and wine industry continues to impress, with more than 14 new cafes and restaurants opening across the city over the past year.
Team leader at the Hop Temple Brian Taylor said there has been massive growth in the sector over the past year.
“There's been massive growth. “We call it eat and drink (as opposed to food and wine) because there's so many people doing good things,” he said.
“I thought there was a gap in the market for different beers (which is a hallmark of the venue).”