THE FLOODGATES might be opening on Friday but Bendigo motels are yet to see a dramatic spike in weekend bookings.
It comes in a week when accommodation providers have already lost another chance to reverse pandemic-induced damage to bottom lines.
The Bendigo Cup will not have spectators because of COVID-19 restrictions and that has impacted bookings, the Bendigo Motels Association says.
It remains to be seen whether a new round of easing restrictions on Friday will see an influx of visitors who might even be thinking of hanging around a few extra days for the Melbourne Cup holiday.
It would be great if they did. Melbourne tourists are among the most lucrative for central Victoria's tourism and accommodation providers.
So an easing of travel restrictions between Melbourne and the rest of Victoria could flush the sector with much needed business from 6pm on Friday.
Bendigo Motels Association president Kristyn Slattery said bookings were tracking upwards "a little, but not significantly" on Tuesday.
The association's members have reported subdued booking numbers ahead of today's Bendigo cup meet, potentially because spectators would not be allowed at the racecourse, she said.
Ms Slattery wondered whether Bendigo's infection numbers might be prompting some travellers to think about other destinations.
Greater Bendigo had 221 active cases on Tuesday.
That said, Ms Slattery said a different factor was likely looming larger for people's travel plans.
"People might still be getting their heads around the new restrictions and deciding which family and friend groups they want to see first," she said.
"It's a big thing for people after 19 months of pandemic."
Ms Slattery said motel operators would be watching closely to see if bookings increased as the week wore on.
Others are preparing for the negative side of what a surge in Melbourne travellers might mean for regional areas.
Victoria's chief health officer Brett Sutton has warned regional residents to "ready themselves" for COVID-19 case number surges as people from Melbourne hit the road for a weekend away.
He said that made high vaccination rates in regional areas even more critical.
"The great majority of (regional Victorian towns) above 95 per cent first-dose coverage, that is more equitable for a region in any other jurisdiction in Australia," Dr Sutton said.
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