IT'S barely six weeks ago that Ballarat's tourism industry saw some light, being able to reopen, even if it meant keeping numbers to a minimum.
But that flicker has once again been snuffed out by the return to Stage 3 restrictions which look set to force the closures of Ballarat's tourist parks once again.
Ballarat's biggest tourist attraction Sovereign Hill is again temporarily closing its doors due to the crippling COVID-19 pandemic, announcing the move late on Monday.
It will shut at 5pm on Wednesday. Other sites such as Narmbool and the Gold Museum will remain closed after not reopening.
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All tickets will be cancelled and a refund will be processed automatically to all ticket-holders.
It will look to re-open when government restrictions ease.
"We've been overwhelmed by support from the local community, along with many enquiries about what people can do to help Sovereign Hill," chief executive Sara Quon said in a statement.
"Making a donation, purchasing raspberry drops, honey or hampers from our online store (free delivery for postcodes 3350, 3351, 3352, 3355, 3356, 3357 and 3358) and engaging with our online Learning at Home materials and social media accounts are all great ways for people to show their support of Sovereign Hill at this time.
"We look forward to the day when we can again welcome visitors back to share the stories of humanity and reconnect with each other in a place of hope and optimism."
It is just over a month since the popular attraction welcomed visitors again following the 'first wave' of the pandemic, which saw it closed for three months. It had moved to three days a week last month.
Ballarat Wildlife Park owner Greg Parker said while no firm decisions had been made as of Monday, it was likely the Wildlife Park would close from Wednesday night.
"We're waiting to hear more details, but at this stage we're probably closing at close of business on Wednesday," he said. "We're just waiting to listen to the details and hope to clarify it all a bit."
Mr Parker said psychologically this latest shutdown would be a blow.
"It's hard for so many businesses, and I feel for those good business, the cafes, the restaurants, who were just starting to come back," he said.
"The hardest thing is being elated to being open again, so psychologically it's hard on your morale. The only thing you can do is stay positive.
"I just hope we're alright by September and hopefully we're open for school holidays and we get a surge of business then."
Kryal Castle general manager Melissa Dimond said it was expected the medieval attraction would also be closing its doors.
"We're assuming we'll have to close, however our accommodation will remain open for essential travellers," she said.
"It's really disappointing, but it's something we have to do and we just hope we come out of it sooner, rather than later.
"A middle of August shutdown is a lot better for us than in January. We'll do whatever we are advised.
Ms Dimond said she felt for businesses who may not recover this time around.
"We're in a lot easier position than people working in health services or teachers who are now preparing once again for remote learning," she said.
"There are so many businesses that may not come out of this, but right now we must focus on everyone's health and safety."
The Victorian Tourism Industry Council chief executive Felicia Mariani said the latest lockdown was a major blow to the industry.
"While we completely respect the need for these drastic measures to get the virus under control, this six-week dramatic shutdown will gut our industry and dim the prospects of making it through to the other side of this situation, for many," she said.
"VTIC has already noted the dire circumstances confronting the tourism, events and hospitality sector in Victoria, given that the state has been unable to reactivate at the same rate as other states in the country."
Last week, VTIC released a statement on the most recent ABS figures outlining the disproportionate impact on Victoria's tourism and hospitality sector since mid-March.
The stats show the accommodation and food services sector has been hit the hardest with a 24.4 per cent decline in jobs, against a national decrease of 18.1 per cent.
"These numbers reaffirm what the Victorian tourism industry has seen and felt for months now, as extended lockdown sequencing has decimated any recovery opportunities the sector might have had," Ms Mariani said.
"At the current rate, the reality is that Victorian operators will likely have to endure the best part of 12 months with little or no revenue. There is no business that could have ever planned to survive in such conditions."
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