In what is normally the busiest time of year for tourism, much of the eastern part of the state has been affected by bushfires. But what has the effect been in the Ballarat region?
According to recent data compiled by the Australian Tourism Industry Council, the rate of booking cancellations in fire-affected areas around Australia has been dire.
ATIC Executive Director Simon Westaway said that while the impact of the fires had been terrible for many people, one of the residual impacts had been the visitor economy.
Mr Westaway said that regional Victoria has benefited from a successful tourism industry for many years, but work was still required to bolster it further.
One issue currently being worked on is addressing the issue of people basing themselves in Melbourne and travelling to the regions, though not staying overnight.
He said nationally 43 cents in every tourism or visitor dollar is spent in Australia's regions, but this is only about 37 cents in every dollar in Victoria, which is partly due to the strength of Melbourne being an attractive place to stay.
"And now the fires are exacerbating an ongoing issue around our Victorian regions," he said.
In areas directly affected by fires - Gippsland and the Alpine region - there has been a 100 per cent rate of booking cancellations.
However, some other parts of regional Victoria not directly affected have also reported cancellation rates of around 60 per cent.
Whilst it is overwhelmingly domestic visitors who have cancelled their travel plans, Mr Westaway said there were concerns about the impact of international travellers as well, with the perception that large parts of Australia are fire affected, and so not many future bookings are being made.
"That is a contagion effect where people have made decisions not to travel no matter if an area is fire affected or not, be it because of smoke, concern for their own well-being or due to not wanting to impinge on authorities and communities at this time with the crisis going on," he said.
Meetings between industry and state and federal governments have been hosted, with the Victorian tourism industry seeking immediate support for fire affected areas as well as more widely across the state to ensure the market can be retained and rebuilt.
All regions that have tourism as part of their economic makeup are at risk of being affected detrimentally over time if we don't seek to address it.Simon Westaway
These sentiments were reiterated by Felicia Mariani, chief executive of the Victorian Tourism Industry Council, who said that as most tourism operators derive 50 to 60 per cent of their annual income during January, their ability to sustain their businesses over the year has been marginalised as they have lost their greatest period for income generation.
She said this problem was not isolated to Victoria but was being felt nationally.
"The images that have been beamed around the world through social media or on digital channels have sadly given the impression that the whole of Australia is on fire," Ms Mariani said.
With tourism playing such an important role in the sustainability of regional economies and in Victoria employs more than 92,000 people in regional centres and towns, Ms Mariani said ensuring its viability going forward was vital.
On Sunday the federal government announced a $76 million package for the tourism industry under the $2 billion bushfire recovery fund, to assist in the protection of jobs, small businesses and local economies that rely on tourism.
With tourism contributing $152 billion to the national economy and one in thirteen people relying on it for employment, the package has five key components to reinvigorate it, including a focus on domestic and international marketing campaigns, a regional tourism and events fund and major investment in engaging international media and influencers to convey positive stories about the many areas of Australia that are untouched by this disaster and are still safe to travel to.
Has our region been affected?
Despite the impact on much of the state, it seems that this summer at least, the Ballarat region has bucked the trend.
According to the City of Ballarat, while it is only halfway through summer and does not have the official tourism figures until the end of the season, attendance at major events, such as the Road National Cycling Championships are tracking slightly ahead of last year.
It has had 5,000,000 impressions from its digital summer campaign so far and 74,205 page views between December and last week. There were some 2000 fewer views in the same period last year.
"Visitors to the Ballarat Information Centre have been asking about the fires across the State. We've seen visitors who were travelling to Gippsland choose to change their travel plans and stay in Ballarat which is currently perceived as a safe place to travel to or stay for a while," a council spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, over in spa country, Daylesford Macedon Ranges Tourism's Chief Executive Steve Wroe said that while the Christmas to New Year period was unusually quiet, visitation had since picked up.
Mr Wroe believes that the region had not been adversely affected due to the region's close proximity to Melbourne, meaning people felt comfortable enough to travel there.
"Our region is close to Melbourne, it is green, it is cooler at this altitude and there are roads in and out," he said. "After the initial panic, we have seen a reasonably strong up tip that is either on par with this time last year or a bit stronger."
He said from speaking to key local accommodation booking agencies he was not aware of any immediate cancellations, while forward bookings were also looking strong.
A state government spokesperson said it encourages Victorians, interstate and international visitors to travel to regional Victoria, if deemed safe, to support local tourism operators and businesses.
Advertising will soon be launched to encourage this messaging and the state government continues to work with regional tourism boards and Tourism Research Australia to estimate the full impacts of the fires on the industry.
While it is still rather early to predict if the current bushfires and the broader issue of climate change will impact the traditional Australian summer holiday in future, the state government is working with industry, the Victorian Tourism Industry Council, Tourism Australia and the Commonwealth to measure if it is Australians or international visitors who have cancelled their travel plans and how the industry can be supported now and going forward.
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