Shot in the arm for tourism

(Joe van der Hurk)

By Luke Voogt

Geelong tourism received a desperately-needed “shot in the arm” as Victorians flocked to the region for Easter and the school holidays.

“We weren’t seeing any availability from any of the [caravan] parks within the region,” Greater Geelong and Bellarine Tourism executive director Brett Ince said.

This had a flow-on effect for local hotels and motels, according to Mr Ince.

“On a normal Easter or peak weekend you would still see some motels and hotels with availability,” he said.

“When we were looking at some of the metrics there were only one or two rooms vacant on the Saturday and the Sunday at motels.

“People really want to get out there and recover, reconnect and recharge after the 12 months that we’ve had.”

The Surf Coast Highway was packed with traffic as Melburnians and regional Victorians flocked to the coast last Thursday and on Good Friday.

While tourism in greater Geelong and the Surf Coast had rebounded somewhat from COVID-19 over Christmas, events such as Victoria’s snap lockdown had affected consumer confidence, Mr Ince said.

But easing restrictions, excellent weather and Easter kicking off the school holidays had combined to provide a “real shot in the arm”, he said.

Barwon Coast’s caravan parks and campgrounds were full to capacity, with accommodations services manager Daniel Payne saying “it was a bumper Easter for the parks and the town”.

Cafes, pubs and beaches in Geelong, Torquay and on the Bellarine Peninsula were also bustling over the long weekend.

Driftwood Cafe owner Ty Simons described Good Friday as “quieter than usual” but said the weekend was “very solid” and Monday was “out of this world”.

“I think [Easter Monday] was busiest day we have ever had excluding the 20 per cent surcharge we are now being forced to charge for public holiday rates,” he said.

Ocean Grove Hotel’s Andy McDonough said he experienced a large increase in trade for Easter Saturday and Sunday.

“With the warm weather and customers being able to enjoy the outdoor areas at the hotel, it has carried on into the week with strong bookings … hopefully it stays this way all school holidays,” he said.