The Mornington Peninsula’s tourism industry is “on its knees” as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, according to Mornington Peninsula Regional Tourism Board chairwoman Tracey Cooper. “The level of financial hardship and the toll this has taken is unacceptable,” Ms Cooper said. “Many tourism businesses are small employers and don’t have the working capital to survive a protracted lockdown. My team has made over 6000 calls during this time and every one of our operators is impacted.”
Ms Cooper was livid that the Peninsula had been included in metropolitan Melbourne during the COVID crisis while Geelong wasn’t. She said the situation was blatantly inequitable and would cost jobs on the Peninsula. Greater clarity was also urgently needed regarding potential density levels at camping grounds and whether shared bathroom facilities could open.
According to State Government data, tourism is a critical industry for the Peninsula’s economy. To the year ending last March, the region welcomed about 7.8 million domestic and international visitors who spent $1.3 billion. The data also indicated:
• Tourism was worth $10 billion to the region’s economy in 2017-18;
• Tourism generated about 10,700 direct or indirect jobs, representing 9.4 per cent of the region’s employment;
• Day-trippers spent about $460 million in the year to March, a decrease of 3.8 per cent compared with the previous year; and,
• Domestic overnight expenditure in the region for the same period was about $740 million, with visitors spending an average of $147 per night and $391 per visitor.
Mornington Peninsula Shire Council data indicates the negative impacts of the pandemic are likely to be greater in the region than Australia overall, with gross regional product down 21 per cent compared with 6.9 per cent overall for Australia, as well as 5900 jobs lost and an 11 per cent reduction in employment opportunities.
The council’s property and strategy manager, Nathan Kearsley, said foreshore camping was a long-standing summer tradition that usually attracting 14,000 to 16,000 campers annually. “At present, the proposed opening date for the camping season is no earlier than December 19, but we’ll make a final decision on exactly when to open the 2020-21 season later in the year,” Mr Kearsley said. “All campers impacted by the decision to postpone the opening of this year’s camping season will have any camping fees either refunded or applied to next season’s booking.”
Mr Kearsley said postponing the start of the camping season would cost the council about $500,000 in lost camping fees. Senior council officials are working on a plan with tourism business operators and industry representatives to help businesses maximise their trade and revenue over the peak summer period.
There are currently 10 active COVID-19 cases in the Mornington Peninsula local government area and 15 in the Frankston LGA.