Melburnians are due to return to regional Victoria shortly - but limits on Sovereign Hill visitor numbers and fierce competition may impact the speed of the tourism industry's recovery.
By November 9, when restrictions are due to be eased, millions of city residents are likely to want to leave the city.
Quantum Market Research has carried out tourism research work for Sovereign Hill and City of Ballarat which suggests pent-up demand for travel.
Their analysis showed many Melburnians have saved money during lockdown - and that 40 per cent of them planned to use those additional funds on holidays.
They should be able to visit regional Victoria from November 9, subject to no further outbreaks. This region will be among many vying for their business.
A predicted rush of Melbourne-based friends and relatives is likely to give the economy an immediate short-term boost.
However, a new Great Sleepover campaign for the Great Ocean Road - which aired during the AFL grand final - also highlights the competition the city's tourist sector faces.
Previously unable to comment due to the council election caretaker period which ended on Saturday, the City of Ballarat has now shared more details on recent marketing and plans.
The council, which took tourism marketing in-house last October after cutting short an arm's length service agreement with Ballarat Regional Tourism, said it had been actively targeting potential visitors in the regions as soon as travel was possible.
Its Weekends in Ballarat campaign included activity on YouTube, Google Display, Facebook and Instagram, a visitor economy update emailed on Monday said. A City of Ballarat spokesperson said the campaign would be extended to Melbourne, with a target of reaching two million Victorians.
The fact that no council had yet been elected should not impact its destination marketing, they said.
The City of Ballarat also said a tourism recovery campaign was due to launch in early 2021 with details to be shared shortly.
Meanwhile, a visitor cap in place at the city's main attraction, Sovereign Hill, could also have an impact.
The attraction re-opens from October 31 to November 3, and will be open for on subsequent weekends, with entrance tickets capped at a daily maximum of 1,000. That equates to around 20 per cent of the attraction's normal weekend capacity.
With the Melbourne market's return, the not-for-profit outdoor museum should attract a full house with little additional marketing beyond social media and its existing database.
Prior to the second lockdown, when the attraction was able to reopen its doors for several weeks, The Courier understands around 70 per cent of visitors through the gates came from Melbourne.
Its CEO Sara Quon said Sovereign Hill was "pursuing a gradual re-opening in line with Victorian Government guidelines."
Regarding the 1000 person limit, she said: "The guidelines allow us to have significantly more people on site but Sovereign Hill has elected not to do this."
That equates to a significant drop in the amount of people likely to be coming to the city to explore its best known attraction.
No date has been set to review spacing restrictions. Ms Quon said the attraction would "adapt and modify our visitor limits accordingly as the Victorian Government continues to further ease restrictions on indoor activities."
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Ms Quon also said Sovereign Hill had been having positive conversations with Ballarat about collaborating on a tourism recovery.
"Now that caretaker period has ended we will work closely to understand the nature of that collaboration," she said in an emailed statement.
Another factor at play is the unusually empty calendar, with many previously scheduled events now cancelled. Beyond the cycling Road Nats in January there are few notable events scheduled, so the extent of the recovery is likely to rest on how broadly Ballarat is able to successfully market itself.
As well as inquiring about tourism campaigns, The Courier also asked for the marketing budget for the rest of the financial year but no details were available on Tuesday.
The council's Ballarat Traveller Experience Plan, which will set out measures designed to help grow tourism, as well as a revised events strategy, are due to be completed in December.
FULL RESPONSE FROM SOVEREIGN HILL
"Sovereign Hill is pursuing a gradual re-opening in line with Victorian Government guidelines.
Currently, this means we are adhering to a limit of 1,000 visitors per day to ensure excellent visitor experience while some indoor activities remain closed.
The guidelines allow us to have significantly more people on site but Sovereign Hill has elected not to do this.
We will be open for four consecutive days over the Melbourne Cup long weekend and then weekend trading only commencing 7 November.
We are delighted that restrictions for metropolitan Melbourne are being eased and that Melbournians will be able to travel to regional Victoria as of 8 November.
We will adapt and modify our visitor limits accordingly as the Victorian Government continues to further ease restrictions on indoor activities.
We are having positive conversations with the City of Ballarat regarding both our efforts and theirs to drive visitation through the recovery period ahead and we look forward to collaborating with them. Now that caretaker period has ended we will work closely to understand the nature of that collaboration.
At our end we are reaching out to our great supporter base digitally through social media and our direct mail to keep them up to date with everything that is happening over the coming period.
Until then we are focussed on ensuring our site is safe, secure and that we deliver a wonderful experience to our visitors."
FULL RESPONSE FROM THE CITY OF BALLARAT
The destination marketing campaign 'Weekends in Ballarat' has already been in-market targeting regional Victorians, and with changing restrictions, we have switched on a media schedule targeting the Melburnian audience, too.
It's a campaign aimed at driving visitation and bookings into Ballarat businesses.
The majority of media execution is via digital channels, including video, display and social media.
We're aiming and on target to reach two million Victorians with this campaign. We continue to monitor channel performance and optimise media investment to deliver the most value.
Destination positioning is an always-on activity and is not impacted by Council elections.
City of Ballarat works to amplify the excellent work of all business in the visitor economy, including Sovereign Hill.
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