TOURISM to the Grampians region is on the rise, but it faces some challenges brought by its own success.
Grampians Tourism chief executive Marc Sleeman said lack of qualified staff, housing, and lack of funding all posed challenges to keeping up with rising demand.
The comments come after a recent announcement from the state government that it will conduct a review into regional tourism.
The government revealed a drop in expenditure and visitation rates across regional Victoria generally, but with the Grampians one of the few areas on the rise Mr Sleeman hoped it would also address barriers to keeping up with demand.
The Regional Tourism Review will look at opportunities to better support tourism in the regions, enhance private investment and create more regional jobs.
In the Grampians, domestic overnight visitation increased by 15.4 per cent, and domestic day trippers increased by 7.2 per cent.
"We know the economic expenditure is huge for the Grampians," Mr Sleeman said.
"When you look at our region in isolation, we lead the state in length of stay, expenditure, and we're third for growth in visitor numbers," he said.
"We know that currently there are 1.3 million visiting to the Grampians National Park ... we'll double that in the next five years.
"We need to make sure all our icon attractions receive adequate funding to keep them up to standard, to ensure that the visitor experience continues to improve.
"It's great to talk about the growth but we need to match that with the supply side and make sure we have adequate accommodation to fill the demand."
Peak body Victorian Tourism Industry Council's chief executive Felicia Mariani said what was needed was a coordinated approach to financial resources being pumped into the industry.
"While it's always easy to ask for more money, the Victorian Government has invested well in tourism over many years. The challenge here relates more to better coordination of the significant resources being spent 'in the name of tourism'," she said.
"There are too many disparate funds, and management/direction of those funds across multiple streams of government, which has most likely resulted in a less than optimum outcome.
"As we understand it, this planned review will look at better allocation of whole of government resources to support priority projects that will be 'game changers' for moving the needle on visitation to regional Victoria from key markets - both domestic and international."
Mr Sleeman said finding a workforce to keep up with the growing demand was another issue.
"It's a huge barrier. We're seeing this massive growth in visitation and we're finding challenges around skilled labour in the region and matching the growth with the skilled labour," he said.
"We're working very hard to make sure our workforce has adequately skilled people."
Ms Mariani said industry and the government needed to work together to address the issue.
"The first and most crucial step here is for our industry to be recognised as a significant economic driver and key source of employment, particularly for regional areas of the state," she said.
"From here, we need educators, businesses and government to work together in planning for what a skilled tourism workforce looks like - and that means we need to consider the required skills to service the growth demand for our broad industry."
Housing - or rather a lack of - for that workforce also formed a barrier, Mr Sleeman said.
"As our visitor economy grows, the demand for skilled labour and stable workforce increases, but there's a shortage of adequate accommodation across the whole region and there needs to be a focus on that," he said.
Housing is a key issue that the Ararat Rural City Council recently named as a priority project in its 2019-20 advocacy program, in which it lobbies government for support and funding for key projects.
Mr Sleeman welcomed the review.
"From our perspective the review is good timing, and I believe will add value to the visitor economy in regional Victoria," he said.
Ms Mariani hoped that the review would achieve "long-term overall strategic vision for Victoria that stakeholders can align their efforts to and really drive a coordinated outcome."
"These issues are complex, challenging and controversial - and they take time and deep consideration to set a strong course of action," she said.
"These directions may not be the easy route to take, but as a state we need to start to tackle these tough issues or we will be left behind in what is an increasingly competitive global environment for attracting visitors.
"If we can see a plan that results in joined up investment by government and the private sector to create compelling experiences across our State - that would be the perfect outcome."
The Regional Tourism Review will be led by Special Adviser and Member for Macedon Mary-Anne Thomas, who will lead consultation in regional communities and oversee the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions' work in delivering the review.
- Ararat Advertiser