Visitors to Echuca staying with family or friends have contributed to an 11 per cent increase in the amount of overnight visitors to the area.
The trend was discovered when the latest domestic travel figures were released by Murray Regional Tourism last week, taking in the period from October 2020 to September 2021.
While there has been a downward trend in total domestic travel to Echuca-Moama, the figures for domestic overnight travel have remained strong.
And spending for this period of time by domestic overnight travelers was almost on par with the previous 12 months.
There were an estimated 575,000 domestic overnight visitors to Echuca-Moama in the October 2020 to September 2021 period, an increase of 11.6 per cent.
And despite there being almost seven per cent fewer people staying in paid accommodation, the $269 million spend was only down by 1.9 per cent for the period.
Echuca Moama tourism chief Kathryn Mackenzie said the figures showed Echuca-Moama was continuing to attract people for more than “just a day trip”.
“The domestic overnight travel figure is strongly influenced by family and friends,” Ms Mackenzie said.
“Especially in this period in time when people were very nervous about traveling.
“From the figures that were just released it seems as though people that have come up to Echuca-Moama have spent freely.”
Ms Mackenzie said with her close connection to Bendigo she often compared to the two regions’ figures.
“There are some high-spend items in Echuca-Moama, things like overnight cruising on the paddlesteamers and the houseboats,” she said.
“If you contrast that to Bendigo for example, its major attraction is the art gallery, which is free.”
Ms Mackenzie said Echuca’s business community also contributed to the solid spending figure from the reporting period.
“Because we don’t have a lot of big franchises, which were closed for a lot of that period due to COVID, our figures were not as badly affected,” she said.
“We are very lucky that most of our little boutique shops kept their doors open as much as they could.
“That meant more people had the chance to spend money. In a lot of other areas businesses were closed.”
Ms Mackenzie said visitors to the area loved shopping in Hare and High Sts.
“It is really important for us to have those boutique retail businesses. You can’t underestimate the quality of these businesses,” she said.
“There are a lot of small boutique cafes and restaurants. We just don’t have a big one, two or three.
“There are a lot of smaller places that are different from Melbourne and Bendigo, even from Shepparton, Geelong and Ballarat.
“I just pray they remain open.”
Ms Mackenzie said Echuca-Moama residents played a big role in the spending habits of visitors, particularly when those visitors were staying with them.
“Locals are going out and taking the people who visit with them to these locations,” she said.
“Tourism is a big driver of the quality of life in Echuca-Moama.
“Every person I talk to in this area says how lucky they are to live here.”
Ms Mackenzie said Echuca-Moama had always been “a bit more than a day trip” and punched well above its weight on the tourism front.
Albury-Wodonga reported an eight per cent decrease in domestic overnight travel and was down four per cent overall for total domestic visitors.
Mildura/Wentworth and Swan Hill performed best in the Murray Regional Tourism area, compared to the figures from the same period in 2019-20.
Ms Mackenzie said the figures were derived from a national survey where people were called and asked where they had been for the past three months and what they had spent.
She said Echuca-Moama continued to be an attractive proposition for people looking into retirement.
“Many of the tourism operators in the area who have had people staying with them for 10 or 20 years often tell me this is where people tell them they are going to retire,” she said,
She said she hoped Echuca-Moama residents continued to embrace tourism.
“Our community needs to be attached, because these venues are where people take their family and friends,” she said.