Tourism operators are bracing for a huge financial hit after Mornington Peninsula Shire Council today postponed foreshore camping until February. Senior council officials said the decision was taken after consideration of the State Government’s COVID-19 roadmap and to ensure the health and safety of all Victorians.
Mornington Peninsula Magazine reported in August that the season had been delayed and would start no earlier than December 19 after pre-peak season camping, which had been scheduled to begin on October 23, was scrapped. Today, however, council CEO John Baker said the further postponement was the most prudent approach with restrictions still in place for the foreseeable future.
“Even as we hopefully move from ‘step three’ into the last step of the roadmap and then COVID-normal, social distancing, density quotients, group sizes and a range of other measures will still be required,” Mr Baker said. “It’s not feasible to have foreshore camping under many of these conditions. One of our major concerns is the transmission risk from people having to use the shared toilet and shower amenity blocks. This approach is consistent with the Chief Health Officer’s advice, which has underpinned our decision.”
Foreshore camping on the Peninsula is a longstanding summer tradition, usually attracting 14,000 to 16,000 campers annually. The postponement would cost the council about $500,000 in lost camping fees, officials said.
Mornington Peninsula Regional Tourism Board chairwoman Tracey Cooper could not be contacted for comment today but has previously described the tourism sector as “on its knees” and dealing with an “unacceptable” level of financial hardship.
According to Government data, tourism is a critical part of the Peninsula’s economy. In the year to last March, our 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 our economy in 2017-18;
• Tourism generated employment for about 10,700 people, or 9.4 per cent of the region’s direct and indirect jobs;
• Daytrip visitors spent about $460 million in the year ending March – a decrease of 3.8 per cent on the previous year; and,
• Domestic overnight expenditure for the same period was about $740 million.
The council manages camping along the foreshore reserves in Rosebud, Rye and Sorrento. It will provide an update on the situation in January.