The Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Region, Melina Bath has requested regional hearings be held in Gippsland as part of the parliamentary Inquiry into impact of COVID-19 pandemic on Victoria’s tourism and events sectors.
Writing to the Chair of the Victoria State Parliament’s Economy and Infrastructure Committee Ms Bath has made a formal request.
Ms Bath said it was imperative that the Gippsland host regional hearings with our visitor economy impacted as no other area in Victoria
“Drought, bushfire and COVID have delivered Gippsland a triple whammy, economic blow,” said Ms Bath.
“Given the significant negative impacts on tourism and events in our region, Gippsland business owners should be given the opportunity to share their insights and solutions with the Committee face to face.
“Early in 2019 some of our biggest tourist attractions in Gippsland were impacted by bushfire, including the Baw Baw Shire, Wilsons Promontory and Morwell National Park, while late in 2019 much of the East Gippsland region was tragically devastated by bushfire at the height of its peak tourism season.”
Statistics provided by Destination Gippsland on the impact of COVID in 2020 are sobering and highlight the considerable challenges.
From April to September 2020, total visitations in Gippsland were down 1.85 million, while the total nights stayed in the Gippsland region was 1.6 million down in 2020 compared to 2019.
Ms Bath said the severe lockdowns imposed on regional Victoria caused by Labor’s failures in hotel quarantine had inflicted much pain on Gippsland businesses reliant on tourism and events.
“Gippsland pubs, clubs, restaurants, cafes, entertainment providers, events and accommodation venues were either forced shut or constrained with severe restrictions despite low or no COVID cases in our region,” said Ms Bath.
“Having spoken with many local business owners who have insights into the type of support mechanisms and short, medium and long-term strategies for recovery, their voices need to be respectfully heard.
“If we are to conduct a holistic review of impacts on the industry, hear quality evidence and deliver outcomes to assist recovery, it’s important for hearings be held close by those adversely affected.
“We should not be expecting people who have suffered through COVID to travel to Melbourne to give evidence; it’s imperative the inquiry comes to Gippsland,” said Ms Bath.