“Victorians are looking forward to a well-earned break and tourism operators need every bit of support we can provide to them, but public health has to remain our top priority,” Mr Pakula said.
Christina Adams, owner of Marysville Caravan and Holiday Park north-east of Melbourne, said that after a wretched first half of 2020, regional businesses like hers were in a conflicted position as Victoria marked its 10th consecutive day of double-digit coronavirus numbers.
While some caravan parks on the Great Ocean Road initially banned visitors from Melbourne’s “hotspots” before reversing their decision hours later, Ms Adams said she was advising visitors from Melbourne to err on the side of caution.
“We have had some guests saying they come from a council hotspots like Moreland, but their suburb is far away from where there are cases,” Ms Adams said.
“My problem is I don’t know the suburbs or what’s happening well enough. I remind guests that they’ll have to fill out a COVID declaration form when they arrive and that they’re to be responsible for the decision they make.
“We’re optimistic, we need and welcome the visitors. We’re doing the best we can, we hope everyone else does the same.”
Wayne Kayler-Thompson, chairman of the Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism board, welcomed the government’s decision to provide temperature checks and said visitors needed to be responsible.
“Businesses are under pressure, not only from the loss of visitors this year but the pressure to provide services in a safe environment,” he said.
“These two weeks of school holidays are the first time, with restrictions reduced to some extent, that we’re likely to expect a steady flow of visitors into the region. We don’t want that to result in more restrictions coming in, and therefore putting the future into jeopardy. It’s a fine balance.”
As well as asking guests to fill out a declaration form on arrival, Victoria’s peak caravan body has advised operators to step up cleaning.
Ms Adams said her Marysville caravan park had stepped up toilet block cleans from once a day to three times a day and five further checks.
BIG4 Bright Holiday Park owner Denis Payton said six groups had cancelled reservations in light of this week’s spike in COVID-19 cases but the number of reservations was still exceeding his expectations before June.
“If people aren’t feeling confident to come up, we encourage them to be careful and transfer their booking to later in the year,” Mr Payton said.
“With the preparations we have in place, we feel we’re ready to handle the influx of people.”
Health Minister Jenny Mikakos also encouraged caution.
“The last thing we want is for this virus to spread further throughout the state these school holidays, so the most important message for Victorians right now is that if you are unwell at all, you should stay at home,” she said.
Michael is a state political reporter for The Age.