Ballarat Regional Tourism has appointed Sarah Myers as its new chief executive to lead the organisation through the tourism industry's post-COVID recovery.
Ms Myers will take the reins from early October, taking over from Natalie O'Brien, who served as the organisation's CEO for almost two years.
Ms Myers grew up in Ballarat, returning to the city about 10 years ago with her family, and owns a strategic marketing consulting business where she has worked in the tourism and food and wine sectors.
In recent years, Ms Myers managed Visit Ballarat's award-winning 'Made of Ballarat' campaign and has overseen Grampians Tourism branding and marketing.
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She has also worked with local government, consulting with the City of Ballarat, Pyrenees Shire Council and Ararat Rural City Council.
Ms Myers said she hoped to foster collaboration throughout western Victoria's tourism sector as it comes out of a tough time.
"I want to bring that collaboration because I think Ballarat is going to be stronger if all the regions in western Victoria are stronger," she said.
"The visitor economy is a really important sector for Ballarat and Ballarat can't properly recover until Melbourne has recovered.
"We rely so heavily on Melbourne, Melburnians visiting Ballarat, so yes, we're out of lockdown right now but really... we're in lockdown by proxy at the moment because our friends down the highway are still locked up.
"No doubt it's the most difficult time that the tourism visitor economy has ever faced and it's going to be a long road ahead."
Ms Myers said while COVID has made for a tough time for the tourism sector, there was an opportunity to access a greater portion of the Melbourne market.
"We absolutely need to reboot this part of our economy. I think one thing COVID has done is force Melburnians to really look at what's on their doorstep," she said.
"As international borders closed, then even state borders closed, it's been this really unique opportunity in time for Melburnians that often didn't leave the city unless they were getting on a plane to go somewhere else.
"It's been a great opportunity for the regions in Victoria to tap into this opportunity and get them to visit whilst they don't have any other opportunities and I think so many have been blown away by what's on offer on their doorstep, so we want to keep that momentum going."
BRT chair Paul Martino said the board welcomed Ms Myers and her expertise. "On behalf of the Ballarat Regional Tourism board, we are thrilled by this appointment and what it means for Ballarat and the region," he said.
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