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Tourism businesses booming – and it’s lasting for longer

THE region’s accommodation providers are celebrating an even better-than-usual holiday season, with the “house full” sign almost up in Portland and surrounds.

And while last summer’s bumper season was largely due to the bushfires in the eastern part of the state getting holidaymakers to look to alternatives, this time around it seems to be a wish to get out of Melbourne following the easing of the coronavirus pandemic restrictions.

There is also a significant multicultural mix among the visitors, while the state government’s voucher scheme is also proving popular – and likely to extend the season as more become available.

As Melburnians leave in droves for regional holidays, Glenelg Shire isn’t missing out, with providers reporting very little capacity left in Portland and surrounds.

Portland Tourism Association president Dennis Carr, who also operates the Cape Bridgewater Sea View Lodge, said “we’ve been damn busy, but I think the whole area has been”.

There were virtually no vacancies until about January 14.

“We’ve had that many hits on our (PTA) website that it basically crashed,” Mr Carr said.

At Sea View Lodge he had 11 enquiries just on Tuesday alone looking for accommodation.

“It’s unique, it’s always busy at this time of year but this year seems to be nuts,” he said.

“There’s a lot of people around and a lot of different nationalities.

“There’s a huge percentage that have never been to Cape Bridgewater before and just a lot more people about.”

There had been a lot of interest from those who had one of the state government vouchers entitling them to a $200 rebate on a regional holiday, providing they stay at least two nights and spend more than $400 on accommodation and/or certain other eligible activities.

Mr Carr said the voucher scheme encouraged more visitors.

“It does make a little bit of difference for many people but a lot of difference for people who can’t normally afford to do things,” he said.

I’ve had about five or six people with them, but it hasn’t increased our own business at this time of year because people travel anyway.

“But the next lot (for later in the summer) might.”

Portland Bay Holiday Park manager Violet Barrie said the park was totally booked out until January 8, and heavily booked for a while after that.

“We’ve been very busy which is absolutely amazing,” she said.

The visitors were “all Melbourne” being an even mix of those returning from previous years and newcomers.

Many had booked up to one year ago.

“We have a waiting list of more than 90 people trying to get in,” Ms Barrie said.

“They’re calling up every day.”

Unlike for example Warrnambool, where the major caravan park was operating at 50 per cent capacity, Portland Bay was full.

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