Tourism industry excited to welcome back Melburnians

Tourism Greater Geelong and The Bellarine executive director Brett Ince. (Supplied)

Ash Bolt

Geelong will be able to welcome back Melburnians and hospitality venues will be able to seat more customers this weekend, with restrictions set to ease on Friday evening.

Premier Daniel Andrews announced yesterday the state was set to hit its 80 per cent double dose vaccination target on Friday, almost a week ahead of schedule, allowing Victoria to take its next step on the roadmap.

From 6pm on Friday, regional Victoria and Melbourne will be united, allowing Melburnians to return to Geelong for the first time in months.

Tourism Greater Geelong and The Bellarine executive director Brett Ince said there was a sense of relief among tourism and hospitality businesses to have clarity on the future.

“We’re really exciting that we will be able to open up again and particularly with the timing ahead of the Melbourne Cup long weekend,” he said.

“We know that the Melbourne Cup long weekend is historically a strong weekend for both accommodation providers and hospitality businesses.

“Since the announcement, we’ve already seen a high number of bookings. People are looking forward to catching up with family and friends again and coming back out to stay at their holiday homes.”

Mr Ince said it had been tough for the industry, with the region relying heavily on visitors from Melbourne.

“In a normal year, 80 per cent of our visitors are from Victoria and about half of those come from Melbourne,” he said.

“To have that turned off has been extremely challenging.

“The positive is there has been pent up demand to visit the region, so we’re expecting a bumper weekend and … hopefully that will continue into a blockbuster summer.”

Mr Ince said the important message was to enjoy the new freedom and support businesses.

“It’s going to be busy so it’s important to book ahead and be kind to businesses,” he said.

“It’s going to take businesses time to get going again, particularly with staffing, so we’re just asking everyone to be kind.”

From Friday evening, hospitality venues and most other indoor settings will no longer be bound by hard venue caps, instead reverting back to the previous one person per four square metres density quota, as long as all staff and patrons are fully vaccinated.

Most outdoor settings will have a one person per two square metres density quota, with a maximum of 500 people, up from 100.

The same restrictions will apply to weddings, funerals and religious gatherings if all attendees are fully vaccinated.

Caps of 30 people will apply for weddings, funerals and religious gatherings if vaccination status is unknown.

Restrictions will also be eased for entertainment venues.

For indoor seated venues, including cinemas and theatres, there will a 75 per cent capacity or one person per four square metre cap, with up to 1000 people allowed.

For non-seated indoor entertainment venues there will be the density quota, but no patron cap.

Outdoor seated and non-seated entertainment venues including stadiums, zoos and tourism attractions, will be open with a one person per two square metres limit with a maximum of 5000 people.

Events such as music festivals will be allowed to host up to 5000 attendees, as long as they meet any other restrictions related to the venue.

Masks will remain mandatory indoors but will no longer be required outdoors.

Mr Andrews also announced a significant change to the existing roadmap, with further restrictions now set to ease when the state hits 90 per cent of people aged 12 and over fully vaccinated.

It is expected the state could hit that mark by November 24.

At that point, patron caps and density quotas will be removed for all settings, and masks will only be mandatory indoors in some high-risk settings, including hospitals, aged care, public transport and justice and correctional facilities.

There will be no restrictions for indoor and outdoor events provided they follow COVID-safe rules including vaccination requirements.

There will also be no limits on gatherings at private homes.

According to the latest data from the Department of Health, 74 per cent of people aged 16 and over have been fully vaccinated.