There have been sellout crowds over summer at Sovereign Hill as the attraction benefits from a surge in tourists from within Victoria - but the loss of overseas visitors is still being sharply felt by operators in the area.
A spokesperson at Ballarat's flagship tourism site, by far the region's most popular drawcard, said tickets sold out from Boxing Day until January 10.
It is a ray of optimism in a local industry that still faces a long road to recovery from the financial pain caused by the COVID-19 crisis.
Australia's Health Secretary Brendan Murphy warned earlier this week that overseas tourism was unlikely to return until 2022.
Red tape for events - which account for a significant number of visitors in the region - is also having an impact, the chief executive of the tourist industry's peak body in Victoria also warned.
For the moment, the city's main attraction is adapting as well as it can in the circumstances. Sovereign Hill administrators have capped the number of daily visitors at 1,500 - approximately 50 per cent of the usual daily visitor numbers in summer - to ensure a COVID-safe environment.
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Spokesperson Mark Hemetsberger said the numbers were "amazing", particularly given the vast majority of visitors were from Victoria - a market that would have traditionally only comprised approximately a third of ticket sales at this time of year.
"We have been reaching our full capacity and that's what our focus has been on," he said. He added there had been a slight tailing off since January 10 but that the attraction had needed to turn away people without advance bookings, particularly at the weekends.
He said a price reduction had been a "major driver" in allowing the attraction to hit its capacity limits. Ticket prices for Sovereign Hill were cut by more than a third, with entrance fees at $39 for adults, $20 for children and $99 for a family since it reopened to the public as lockdown restrictions eased.
Those changes are part of a new approach to focus as heavily as possible on domestic visitors, with no end in sight to the precipitous decline in Chinese tourism.
The attraction's annual report published last October gave an early indication of the impact of COVID-19, highlighting a $4,796,262 decline in entrance takings for the financial year.
Mr Hemetsberger said they had been working their marketing channels hard, and that the visitor numbers put them in a good position for autumn and winter.
Other attractions may find it harder to change direction in the same way. The Creswick Woollen Mills, for example, had a strategy designed to attract overseas visitors - particularly large tours from China.
Executive director Boaz Herszfeld told The Courier they had since made changes to boost its local appeal and adapt to COVID restrictions - including for an upgrade to its historical displays. Despite that, he said the combination of the fall-off in overseas visitors and restrictions in coach travel had hit the site hard.
"International tourism is non-existent, so that's really damaged the flow. We have no expectation of international visitors in 2021."
However, he said backing from people within the region was making a difference.
"The support we are getting from locals is just fantastic. People are buying local and seeking Australia-made products.
"We know the vast majority of Ballarat's inhabitants still haven't been to Creswick Woollen Mills, so they've got that opportunity as well."
Felicia Mariani, the CEO of peak body the Victoria Tourism Industry Council, said some regional operators had fared better than their Melbourne counterparts - who are often even more reliant on interstate and overseas visitors. She stressed that the situation was still extremely difficult for much of the industry.
She said she was aware of at least two tour and transport operators who had been forced to shut down.
"We cannot sustain our travel industry off the back of intrastate travel," she said. "With no international visitors, [operators] have a very small chance of generating enough business to survive."
"People are afraid to travel inter-state because no-one wants to get caught on the wrong side of a border closure."
Delays in processing applications to allow larger events was another issue for tourism authorities, she said: "For events, it is very difficult to get the number you need to make it economically viable."
The uncertainty of whether events would be allowed, as well as onerous and rising insurance payments, were ongoing problems, she said.
Those planning events with more than 500 people are now obliged to apply for exemptions under a new Public Events Framework, introduced by the state government late last year.
On Tuesday, the City of Greater Bendigo was forced to cancel its Lost Trades Fair. The City of Ballarat's Begonia Festival is still due to take place at the same time in March but the parade has now been cancelled and events will take place over three weeks to adapt to stricter crowd requirements.
Other recent cancellations in Ballarat have included the Organs of the Ballarat Goldfields musical festival.
However, the Cycling Road National Championships is still scheduled to go ahead in the first week of February.
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