Regrowing the Victorian tourism sector over the next four years has been identified as a priority for the state government.

An investment of AUD$633 million over four years has been earmarked by the Victorian Government to help the state’s tourism sector gradually claw back from an estimated AUD$19.5 billion net loss in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Victorian Tourism Recovery Package was announced this week at the 2020 Victorian Tourism Conference in Melbourne and is a key piece of the state government’s 2020/21 Budget. Funds have been allocated for the development of new tourism experiences, products, infrastructure and marketing efforts across regional and urban parts of the state.

Central targets of the plan include a transformation of Regional Tourism Boards to remove red tape and promote collaboration between these organisations with local councils, local tourism operators and Visit Victoria. The establishment of a skills-based board with representation from all parties will help to develop cohesive strategy and advocacy that ultimately benefits the local community.

Adventure trails and walks along the Great Ocean Road will benefit from investment.

Further development of tourism offerings, including experiences based on design, fashion and retail – which were identified as the state’s strength areas – along with new ‘First Peoples’ experiences will also receive investment, along with improvement of natural attractions, arts and culture, sport events, food and beverage and more.

Greater collaboration on state and local marketing efforts will also be improved, with a renewed emphasis on collaboration and ensuring Regional Tourism Boards communicate with Visit Victoria, local councils and the local industry to ensure key messages are aligned at a state-wide level for maximum impact. Marketing funds will be spent on wider campaigns with greater stakeholder engagement, as opposed to smaller and more localised pitches with smaller results.

Funding to develop new nature-based attractions has been allocated.

Importantly, the government has pledged to improve transparency for businesses and investors regarding planning and approvals to develop new opportunities. This will extend to addressing labour and skills shortages, with greater focus on attraction and retention, housing affordability to draw migration from other states and territories as well as improving the perception of tourism as a viable career option.

“Victorian tourism supports thousands of workers – that’s why we have developed a strategy to ensure the sector can continue to rebound strongly from the serious buffeting it took last year,” said Victorian Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events, Martin Pakula.

“New and improved attractions will bring more visitors, and clear planning and strong promotion will ensure a swift recovery of the domestic market and build resilience for the future.”

Improved infrastructure in regional parts of Victoria will be developed through better stakeholder collaboration.

Through the plan, the government has pledged to invest and deliver public infrastructure to stimulate private investment in new attractions. From the allocated funds, AUD$46 million will go toward starting work on dozens of small, shovel-ready tourism products awaiting final approvals. Furthermore, an AUD$100 million Regional Tourism Investment Fund will support private-led projects and nature-based products on public land.

Some of these projects include promoting the Gippsland region as a destination of choice, building coastal walking trails along the Great Ocean Road and developing adventure trails including upgrading facilities and decorating with striking outdoor artworks.

An additional AUD$152 million over four years to help Victoria compete to secure more major events has also been allocated, with another AUD$20 million for regional events across the state. Greater focus will be placed on alternative delivery methods to ensure compliance with COVIDSafe protocols.

The funding will help the city bid for bigger and more frequent major events to stimulate tourism.

These funds are in addition to a further AUD$100 million allocated to the City of Melbourne to help the CBD in its recovery.

Key outcomes identified by the plan include an increase in annual visitor expenditure to AUD$35 billion in city and metropolitan areas by June 2024 along with AUD$12.5 billion in regional areas. Another key metric is for the visitor economy to be supporting 300,000 jobs in tourism and related sectors across the state also by the same deadline of June 2024.