MOONLIT Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park director Michael Johnson sees no problem with 61,000 international visitors coming to the Mornington Peninsula each year.
He says Rye Community Group Alliance president Mechelle Cheers “shouldn’t be worried … rather, she should focus on the estimated 4.2 million day-trippers from Melbourne that visit annually”.
The Pearcedale tourism operator said it was visitors from Melbourne causing traffic jams, not those from overseas.
Ms Cheers is concerned about the impact of mass tourism on the peninsula – especially its effects on vegetation, animals and people (“Tourism can have downside”, The News, 10/10/17).
“It is time the issue was openly discussed and debated,” she said. “This is a conversation that needs to be had – especially for the protection of the southern end of the peninsula.”
Mr Johnson said Moonlit Sanctuary has more than 50,000 international visitors each year. “The advantage of the international market is that they come throughout the year, including mid-week and off-peak periods,” he said.
“If you want visitors on a wet Wednesday in July, international tourism is where it is at. Visitors from Melbourne usually only turn up on weekends and holidays when the sun is shining.”
Mr Johnson said big spending international visitors helped create sustainable jobs.
“According to Visit Victoria figures, the average overnight international visitor to the peninsula spends $909, while domestic overnight visitors spend an average $303 and day-trippers $93,” he said.
Ms Cheers’s comments coincided with the release by Flinders MP Greg Hunt of figures showing a rise in the number of international visitors to the peninsula and growth in the spending patterns of residents and local visitors.
When contacted by The News, Mornington Peninsula Regional Tourism Board executive chair Tracey Cooper said: “All tourists, whether domestic or international visitors, play an invaluable role in the local economy. They employ thousands directly and indirectly. The summer peak period, in particular when residents and the 24,000 holiday home owners are out enjoying the Mornington Peninsula can put a strain on resources.
“One of the roles of the tourism board is to work with industry and different levels of government to provide the resources and amenities necessary for locals, holiday home owners and visitors to get the maximum enjoyment out of our lovely region”.