GRAMPIANS and Wimmera Mallee tourism is not likely to see an immediate impact from Chinese tourists cancelling their trips to Australia due to the coronavirus.
Victoria's largest inland salt lake, Lake Tyrrell near Sea Lake has become a burgeoning destination for Chinese tourists but has yet to see a drop off in numbers as winter is the key time for international visitors.
Grampians Tourism chief executive Marc Sleeman said China was not a significant market for them, making up only a small number of visitors each year.
Chinese authorities introduced international travel restrictions on Monday in an effort to contain the virus, including suspending all tour groups and sales of flight and hotel packages to its citizens headed overseas.
Despite an initial summer slump due to coverage of bushfires, the Wimmera region's hospitality and tourism providers said they are rebounding and are "as busy as ever".
Julie Pringle, who runs tours to Lake Tyrrell, said while 30 per cent of her bookings were from China her business had been unaffected by cancellations so far.
"The peak season for tour buses is June until October and I have plenty of bookings for 2020," she said.
Ms Pringle said infrastructure upgrades to the site such as new boardwalks were expected to be completed by the end of June and would improve access and safety for visitors.
"Lake Tyrrrell is a diamond in our town," she said.
The state Government said in a statement that the $2.58 million project was expected to boost visitation numbers from 42,000 a year to more than 192,000 by 2025.
Grampians Tourism said it was focusing on attracting domestic tourists in the wake of bushfires.
"International visitors make up five per cent of our visitors, and China probably only makes up about five per cent of that," Mr Sleeman said.
He said Grampians businesses had a great Australia Day weekend.
"But I am concerned that if bookings continue to be soft then we will be in trouble," he said.
The Victoria Tourism Industry Council released a statement urging all Victorians to support regional tourism operators as they face a "double whammy" hit to their businesses.
Victoria Tourism Industry Council Chief Executive Felicia Mariani said of 3.1 million international visitors spending $8.8 billion in Victoria each year, almost $3.4 billion was spent by the 674,000 Chinese visitors.
"Tourism operators are telling us that while more marketing spend is very welcome, the benefits of this will likely not be realised until the Labor Day long weekend or Easter break. What they need are visitors travelling to them right now and spending in region to support their operations," she said.
"What these operators really need - and want - is visitors coming back to their towns and communities.
"We're calling on residents in Greater Melbourne, Geelong and regional cities and towns to consider taking a few days leave and hit the road across our State. Stay a couple nights in a region, fill up at the local petrol station, eat at the pub, tour with a local operator and fill your esky full of regional produce.
"Putting money back into these communities is the best way to support the local businesses."
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