ANYONE who thought the Mornington Peninsula was full of tourists over the summer months was not mistaken.
Recent data shows the peninsula is officially one of the most popular tourism spots in Victoria to open a tourism business, with operators benefitting from its proximity to Melbourne, and mix of cafes and restaurants, sand, surf and rolling green hills.
The Business Victoria data shows the peninsula has more tourism businesses (3932) in regional Victoria (it is classified metropolitan by the state government) than the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges (3916) and Murray (3880) regions.
Despite the growth in the number of businesses, tourists are more conservative with their spending, reflecting a post COVID cautiousness.
Modelling based on 2022 ABS data shows tourism on the peninsula is worth almost $613 million in gross revenue and delivers 3824 direct jobs, compared to $1 billion pre-COVID. Most of these jobs are in accommodation and food services (2262), with retail having 604. According to Mornington Peninsula Shire data that figure is down by $4 million pre-COVID.
The peninsula (and Victoria’s) tourism sector is dominated by small businesses that include non-employing, micro and small businesses with fewer than 20 staff. Businesses of this size make up 96 per cent of all tourism businesses in Victoria.
Most of the growth in tourism businesses in Victoria came from cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services (up 15.7 per cent since June 2019 or an extra 3573 businesses).
Committee for Mornington CEO Josh Sinclair said tourism, hospitality and events were “the backbone of the visitor economy on the Mornington Peninsula”. He said the committee would continue to lobby for state and federal money to keep it at the top.
The shire is also calling for more government support.
The mayor Cr Steve Holland said the council was asking both state and federal governments for money to complete the 130 kilometre Peninsula Trail, which he said has the potential to become one of the greatest scenic trails of the world.
“A completed Peninsula Trail would be a significant boost to our local tourism industry and create local jobs. It would offer exciting new opportunities for guided walking and cycling tours of our vibrant food, wine and art scene and create opportunities for eco-tourism, as well as Aboriginal cultural and historic tours. Importantly, it would attract off-peak and mid-week tourists and more evenly disperse them across the peninsula,” he said.
Holland said the post-pandemic drop in revenue was not surprising “given the impact of lockdowns on the peninsula”.
“[The shire] provides support for our tourism sector in a range of ways, including having a dedicated tourism team based at the Mornington Peninsula Visitor Information Centre in Dromana to help local tourism businesses.”
Despite the number of businesses increasing, Victoria has slipped to third place in Australia’s tourist economies as Sydney takes over from Melbourne as Australia’s top Easter holidays domestic travel destination.
MP for Nepean and shadow tourism minister Sam Groth said international overnight tourism spending ïn Victoria had fallen from $8.8 billion in 2019 to $3.3 billion in 2022.
He said the sector was desperately hoping for answers from the Visitor Economy Master Plan which was due to be delivered in July 2022, and which the state government promised would be a “strategy to drive tourism development over the next 10 years”.
The master plan had never been released and it was now approaching 12 months since its due date.
“Victoria has for a long time been the tourism and major events capital of Australia, but it’s clear we cannot afford to be complacent,” Groth said.