Coronavirus hurts GOR tourism

by Luke Voogt

Chinese tourism in Geelong and along the coast has plummeted following a travel ban to prevent the coronavirus spreading, prompting calls for government assistance.

Corangamite MP Libby Coker urged Federal Government to support tourism operators and workers affected by the travel ban, which was preventing thousands of Chinese nationals holidaying in Australia.

“Clearly, the economic impact along one of Australia’s premier tourist destinations, the Great Ocean Road, is becoming very serious,” the opposition MP said.

“I’m receiving daily reports about the dramatic drop in visitors and the obvious impact that’s having on businesses across Corangamite, but particularly the Bellarine, Surf Coast and Otways regions.”

The call comes as Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism estimated the ban was costing the region $3 million in lost revenue from Chinese visitation per month.

The figure was based on the average expenditure of 10,000 overnight visitors and 30,000 day visitors from China per month, the group’s chairman Wayne Kayler-Thomson said.

Last week Federal Government extended its travel ban until this Saturday, with plans to review it in coming days.

The ban prevents foreign nationals who have been in mainland China from entering Australia for 14 days from the time they left.

The global death toll for the coronavirus had reached 1868 by Tuesday afternoon, according to various media outlets.

Last week Australian Tourism Industry Council executive director Simon Westaway warned the impact of coronavirus on the industry would exceed that of the recent bushfire crisis.

Ms Coker called for Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham and Prime Minister Scott Morrison to provide “immediate” support to hospitality and tourism workers.

“I call on the government to put together a similar package of relief to the bushfires for affected businesses, workers and communities,” she said.

Ms Coker acknowledged the ban was necessary but urged Federal Government to lift it when safe to do so.

But former Corangamite MP and current government senator Sarah Henderson said “no silver bullets” could “ease the pain being felt by many tourism businesses at present” during the global crisis.

Ms Henderson urged people to support tourism businesses “doing it tough” and save local jobs by spending and holidaying locally.

Government had begun planning to ensure that, when the ban lifted, Australia could quickly re-establish itself as “a hugely popular, welcoming and safe destination” for Chinese visitors, she said.

The Morrison Federal Government was injecting an “unprecedented $76 million” to boost local and international tourism, Ms Henderson said.

This included $20 million for a domestic campaign encouraging Australians to Holiday Here This Year at locations like the Great Ocean Road, she said.