The Bendigo Motels Association is urging the state government to consider approving more major events to ensure economic recovery can remain steady.
BMA properties across Bendigo enjoyed a busy weekend with many booking out for Saturday night. President and Julie-Anna Inn owner Kristyn Slattery said the 24 BMA properties - totaling 558 rooms - were at 100 per cent occupancy rate on Saturday night as people travelled across Victoria for the long weekend.
On Friday night the occupancy rate was 50 per cent for BMA members and about 65 per cent of rooms were booked on Sunday night.
Ms Slattery said the inability for Bendigo and other regional centres to host tier one or two events and offer their usual major drawcards was frustrating for the accommodation and tourism sectors.
"As an association, we don't feel there is much on for the weekend," she said. "There are a few little things but no main drawcard, which left us uncertain if we would be able to fill our rooms. So it is a nice relief.
"It doesn't fix the last 12 months of almost nothing. Our biggest call to action is encouraging the Victorian government to activate more events and make it easier for tier 2 events to get off ground and then move on to tier 1 events.
"Bendigo has built itself on being an event destination and we are certainly missing that.
"We certainly haven't seen the standard three-night minimum bookings we normally get for the firefighting championships, the Bendigo Madison and the Lost Trades Fair."
Victorians were still eager to get out of their homes and explore the state. As well as accommodation being scarce, the city's tourist attractions also reported a number of out-of-town visitors this weekend.
Bendigo Pottery owner Sally Thomson said every weekend was important for businesses working to recover from 2020.
"There is still a lot of ground to make up," she said. "Victorians have shown they are keen to explore their own state, which they have not done previously. That's an exiting thing.
"They are also expressing surprise at what they are finding. Bendigo overall has shown it is a very attractive city - that's the comments we're getting."
Ms Thomson said the recent five-day lockdown wasn't as detrimental to some businesses as it could have been.
"It's still a five-day lockdown. I can only say it was lucky it was in February, which is quieter period," she said. "If it was in January, the damage would have been disastrous.
"January was definitely busy. I don't think we had seen those numbers before. It was the first opportunity everyone had to exit Melbourne.
"February always quietens down when everyone goes back to school before it takes off again."
Following the five-day lockdown, the Bendigo Motels Association also reported a busy weekend.
"The week after the shutdown we turned the no vacancy signs on, on Saturday," she said. "Lots of people re-booked from the Valentine's Day lockdown week. Prior to that from Boxing Day to Australia Day there were quite a few times we were busy, which was previously unprecedented for us."
Ms Slattery and other motel owners are no looking towards March but are still frustrated at the limited major events on the calendar.
"We'd like to be optimistic but it's more cautious and frustrated that events aren't being activated," she said. "We're not seeing forward bookings. They tend to come slightly more than a week out.
"The lead time for reservations is getting shorter. Once it would have been because people were hanging out for a better offer, now it's to make sure the rug is not being pulled out from under them and they are sure they can go visit someone or see something."
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