March quarter has Yarra Ranges cautious

The results for overnight trips and spend in the March quarter 2024 were mixed when compared with the March quarter of 2023 and Victoria was down 2%. (Stewart Chambers: 417321).

By Tanya Steele

Victoria’s tourism industry and its major events calendar put $39.3 billion into the state’s economy during the year ending March 2024 but regional tourism operators remain cautious about the results.

Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events Steve Dimopoulos announced on 25 June that Victoria’s visitor economy grew by $1.5 billion in the last quarter according to results published by the National and International Visitor Survey for Tourism Research Australia.

“These record numbers are a testament to our outstanding tourism, hospitality and events workforce and the work they put in day in, day out to ensure our state is the go-to destination for travellers from all over the world,” he said.

“We continue backing our booming tourism industry so it can keep growing and thriving – supporting thousands of jobs and businesses across Victoria.”

Victoria’s international visitors have spent $7.8 billion over the 12-month period – an 86 per cent increase year-on-year in what the announcement described as a win for local jobs, businesses and the state’s economy.

Tourism spending in Melbourne has increased by 38 per cent over the past five years and spending has also increased in regional Victoria by 57 per cent.

Visitors to Geelong and the Bellarine increased by 93 per cent compared to 2019 levels while Philip Island experienced an increase of 91 per cent and the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges were boosted by 82 per cent.

Yarra Ranges Tourism CEO Simon O’Callaghan said he remains cautious about the results.

“These are soft in real terms on the ground and in our communities,” he said.

“We are conscious that Major Events in Melbourne provide a short-term hit to the visitor economy – they do not drive a consistent approach to the business model the industry needs to sustain a regular workforce and ongoing trade. Nor do big events necessarily

translate to visitors in regional Victoria.”

Mr O’Callaghan said that the recent survey highlights the need to continue proactive marketing strategies and campaigns to ensure the connection to our key visitor markets.

“These are the higher-yielding consumers who will stay overnight,” he said.

Mr O’Callaghan said in the Yarra Ranges spending for international visitors has returned to 87 per cent of 2019 levels, while total overnight visitors are at 72 per cent of 2019 levels.

“Melbourne and regional Victoria are getting closer to a recovery in international spending, reflecting stronger demand for international travel – however, Sydney, Brisbane and the Gold Coast have already exceeded their 2019 levels,” he said.

“This highlights the need for greater effort across the State, led by Visit Victoria and our key attractions that promote themselves to international visitors, to drive the return of these important markets to our region, which visit mid-week and off-peak.”

“Most importantly the impact of overnight spend is substantially more per visitor at $1,398 compared to domestic at $592.”

Both Melbourne and regional Victoria are behind the performance of other major cities and regional Australia on key metrics and at a state and territory level.

The results for overnight trips and spend in the March quarter 2024 were mixed when compared with the March quarter of 2023 and Victoria was down $112 million or 2%.

Mr O’Callaghan said that the recent surge in domestic demand has tapered off, leading to a weaker performance in regional Victoria, reflecting challenging economic conditions and the rebound in outbound travel.

“Visitor metrics are stagnant in real terms when taking the cost of goods sold into account, which is supported by the on-ground feedback from the industry that our tourism partners are expressing,” he said.

Tourism Research Australia’s national survey for the March quarter said that travellers to capital cities also spent more per trip at $1178 on average in the March quarter for 2024 compared to those that travelled to a regional area at $770 per trip.

Victoria’s events calendar continues into 2024 with NGV’s Melbourne Winter Masterpieces Pharoah exhibition, rugby’s State of Origin game two and international Wallabies v Wales Test, basketball’s Ballin’24, and two Australian Diamonds netball tests.

Visit Victoria CEO Brendan McClements said that Tourism Research Australia has forecast that Victoria’s visitor economy will reach $53 billion in 2028.

“Visit Victoria will continue to support our sector in those efforts, and our work to ensure tourism markets around the globe understand why Victoria is every bit different,” he said.