Western tourism sector left behind: advocates

(Ralf Geithe via iStock)

By Oliver Lees

An organisation dedicated to promoting the tourism sector in Melbourne’s west believes the region has been overlooked by the state government’s strategy to revive the struggling industry.

Western Melbourne Tourism (WMT) works in partnership with local government, local business and universities across six council areas across the west, to advocate on the industry’s behalf to the state and federal government.

Last month, Victoria once again opened its borders to vaccinated international travellers, in what was seen as a welcome step in the right direction for tourism providers.

But WMT and independent analysts feel the western region will struggle to rebound at the rate of other parts of the state.

A WMT spokesperson added that unlike the CBD and regional Victoria, Melbourne’s west relies more on those coming to the region to visit friends and relatives, as well as through domestic business and international students, rather than traditional holiday tourism.

WMT executive officer Richard Ponsford told Star Weekly that the large multicultural population in the west means many individuals and businesses depend on international visitation.

“We’re sort of in a no-man’s-land, we haven’t enjoyed equivalent the same levels of support that the CBD and regional Victoria has,” Mr Ponsford said.

Mr Ponsford said while the WMT welcomed the state government’s $200 million announce for the tourism sector, he felt at a state and federal government level, the funneling of funds to regional areas and the CBD was unfair.

According to Tourism Research Australia data, domestic overnight visitor spending dropped 68 per cent within the greater Melbourne region, which includes the CBD and Melbourne’s west, from the first 10 months of 2019 to the same time 2021.

Decisive Consulting analyst Karl Flowers said this change has hit the west specifically, as many residents from the region work within the visitor economy.

“The worst affected Australian industry by COVID has been the visitor economy and the worst affected area in Australia of this worst affected industry is central and western Melbourne,” Mr Flowers said.

A Visit Victoria spokesperson told Star Weekly that it works closely with WMT.

“Visit Victoria contributed to Western Melbourne Tourism’s 2021-24 Tourism Strategy and remains in discussion about delivering on the strategy’s objectives,” the spokesperson said.