‘People in this region are survivors and they’ll have a crack’: Regional tourism gets $100 million boost

Major projects to boost tourism in regional areas will now be eligible for up to $10 million each in state funding. 

Key points:The $100 million Regional Tourism Investment Fund is now open for expressions of interestBetween $150,000 and $10 million is available per projectThere are hopes this will boost the regional tourism industry, which has been hit hard by bushfires and COVID-19

Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events Martin Pakula was in the King Valley to launch the Victorian government's $100 million Regional Tourism Investment Fund, which aims to support new tourism attractions and experiences.

Speaking at Dal Zotto winery, Mr Pakula invited shovel-ready projects to apply for between $150,000 and $10 million per project.

"We're calling on the private sector, local government, local tourism boards, all of those who can bring forward great projects that will catalyse tourism investment in this region," he said.

The state government is particularly looking for projects that focus on First Nations, epicurean, nature-based, and arts and culture tourism — four areas that were identified in the Visitor Economy Recovery and Reform Plan as Victoria's areas of "natural advantage".

Green grape vines with a backdrop of mountains
Dal Zotto winery is one of many popular tourist attractions in the fertile King Valley.(ABC Goulburn Murray: Katherine Smyrk)

Expressions of interest are open now until January, and successful projects are expected to be announced by May 2022. Those projects should be ready to begin within nine months of funding being allocated.

Mr Pakula said this was about long-term investment in regional Victorian tourism.

"This is a small mainland state, but it is huge in terms of the tourism offering in every corner of the state," he said.

"We're looking for projects that fit the same bill — inspirational thinking that will translate into more visitors and jobs."

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Helping the north east bounce back

It is hoped the money will bring a much-needed boost to the region, which has suffered greatly from the COVID-19 pandemic coming in on the heels of the Black Summer bushfires.

Amber Gardner from Tourism North East said the industry employed more than 30 per cent of locals.

"Tourism forms the absolute economic backbone of our region, so it's crucial to our vibrancy and success. But over the past two years the industry has been absolutely decimated," Ms Gardner said, adding that the region had lost 4.6 million tourists worth $2.2 billion in visitor spending.

"[This funding] will be crucial in developing the tourism experiences that will accelerate our economic recovery and drive a new phase of growth for the region."

Two men play bowls on a sand strip of ground at the winery
Michael Dal Zotto and Martin Pakula enjoy what the winery has to offer.(ABC Goulburn Murray: Katherine Smyrk)

Mr Pakula acknowledged the region was facing many other issues, including critical worker and housing shortages.

He hoped that some of the labour pressures would soon be relieved by the arrival of international students, as well as young Melburnians keen to get out of the city.

"It's a great opportunity for young people to learn a skill, to live in a magnificent part of our state and to earn good money, and I think that's something that's incumbent on industry and government collectively to promote," he said.

Michael Dal Zotto, CEO of the winery, thinks the north east would rise to the challenge and take advantage of what was on offer.

"You'll be surprised by how many things come from the King Valley region — ideas, plans and exciting opportunities that will be put forward," he said.

"People in this region, they're survivors and they'll have a crack."

Posted 11 Nov 202111 Nov 2021Thu 11 Nov 2021 at 7:36pmShareCopy linkFacebookTwitterArticle share optionsShare this onFacebookTwitterLinkedInSend this byEmailMessengerCopy linkWhatsApp

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