Up to 300 people a day, mostly families from Melbourne, toured the orchard over Easter on tractors to sample and collect strawberry guavas, lemon guavas, figs, pomegranates, kiwifruit and other fruits.
“The last four days have been fabulous,” Mr Rayner said.
The good weather has been a lifeline for the orchard, but after losing his JobKeeper payment Mr Rayner fears visitors will slump during winter.
“We find the minute it gets cold, the locals won’t come out. If we have a rainy day here you don’t see any customers at all,” he said.
“When we get into winter time this business is going to be a disaster. During the winter 100 per cent of our business was international tourism.”
National Visitor Survey data seen by The Age showed the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges had the biggest percentage decline of visitors and total spend in regional Victoria in 2020.
Yarra Ranges Tourism chief executive Simon O’Callaghan said the figures were attributable to the region being included in Melbourne’s stage four lockdown.
“Other regions could still have inter-regional travel and all of the events we host were cancelled,” he said.
Mr O’Callaghan said a return of events and increasing labour availability as JobKeeper ends could be a boost to the region’s tourism.
“If people really want to help tourism in regional Victoria, booking a mid-week off-peak holiday is the best way.”
Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism chair Wayne Kayler-Thomson said Victoria’s south-west was experiencing a “normal” Easter holiday, thanks to domestic visitors and good weather.
“What we are not getting is interstate visitors and certainly not international visitors,” he said.
Mornington Peninsula Regional Tourism executive chair Tracey Cooper said school holiday bookings “seem to be OK” but longer-term bookings were down.
“It’s a normal school holiday period, but our forward bookings are harder to predict,” Ms Cooper said.
“People feel uncertainty and don’t like pre booking too far ahead.”
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