Grampians Tourism chief executive Marc Sleeman was left disappointed after the Victorian government's announcement yesterday on easing coronavirus restrictions.
The tourism body was preparing for re-opening along with many other businesses across regional Victoria.
Mr Sleeman said he believed many tourism operators thought there would be some clear announcements made on Sunday.
"It was heartbreaking receiving a number of calls from tourism operators yesterday (Sunday) expressing their disappointment," he said.
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"It was critical we had a school holiday period in the Grampians - even if it was just for region to region visitation.
"We would have seen the Grampians and the outer-region fill up for that time."
Mr Sleeman said operators across the region believed the September school holidays from September 18 to October 5 was a possibility to reopen, given the low levels of the virus in regional Victoria.
"We're now faced with a staged approached to reopening," he said.
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"Moving to the stages could happen sooner rather than later but the fact there isn't a clear date for reopening is disheartening.
"The financial strain to a lot of operators is significant - but the emotional and mental strain but on these business owners is being exacerbated by not having a clear date."
Premier Daniel Andrews acknowledged his government had thought about "zones", offering a reprieve for such rural communities after calls from residents to split away from larger regional centres.
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Instead, Mr Andrews said his government opted for broader, statewide restrictions - excluding metropolitan Melbourne - in the hope regional Victoria would progress to "stage three" quickly.
Mr Sleeman said in "reality, we need region to region visitation".
"To open up our local communities in rural centres won't have the economic benefits operators such as restaurants would need to consider reopening," he said.
"We need at a minimum we need to have visitors from those bigger regional centres such as Ballarat, Warrnambool, Bendigo to our region.
"I think a staged approached with regional first is wise, given the low cases in regional Victoria.
"I just hoped it was going to be sooner rather than later."
Mr Sleeman said Grampians Tourism had its "Region to Region" marketing plan ready to go when the green light was given.
"As soon as we get a clear line of sight for regional Victoria we will re-igniting our marketing campaign," he said.
"It's pretty important for people to understand that while region to region visitation would provide some short term benefit we need metropolitan Melbourne reopened for us to start to consider recovery.
"Given a significant portion of our visitation is within Victoria we can rely on just that market for some time."
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