Premier promises 'quick consideration'

HALLS GAP - There's no doubt business operators and accommodation providers have felt the affects of cancellations as people reconsidered their travel plans in the wake of last week's fire threat.

The Premier's visit this week was all about ensuring the wider community is made aware that Halls Gap and parts of the Northern Grampians escaped largely unscathed and were once again open for business.

Halls Gap Tourism's Jeff Lovell told the Premier the strength of the community will get Halls Gap and the Grampians back on the map.

He said after initially receiving a large amount of cancellations, there had been a turnaround in the week since, but there was still a way to go.

"We've gone through quite a bit and we have a long way to go," he said.

"In the last few days we've all been working very hard together and it's one of those things where it takes disaster for everybody to truly start to work together.

"From what I've seen in the last few days it's just fantastic, everybody's pulling together and working to try and get this place back on the map again."

Mr Lovell said business operators and accommodation providers have plenty of reason to be positive with several events to come in the next few months, the soonest the Jazz Festival in early February.

"The biggest thing for us as the Halls Gap tourism body is that we have to make people feel comfortable about coming back to Halls Gap," he said.

"We've had a number of cancellations due to the fire of course, people do get frightened, but it's now time for us to start talking positively and get people coming back to the area."

Halls Gap is a hive of activity at the best of times, no more so than at Easter, the Food and Wine Festival and now annual Run the Gap in May.

The second annual Halls Gap Cup race meeting that was cancelled last Friday has been rescheduled for February 11 with free entry for people from fire affected areas.

Mr Lovell said they hoped to achieve funding that would enable the repair of infrastructure in the parks to get them all opened as quickly as possible.

"People come here to see McKenzie Falls, they come to see the Pinnacle, Boroka Lookout, we can't get them done without funding and quick funding," he said.

Dr Napthine said he understood very clearly the concerns of business and accommodation operators as tourism is the number one driver in the region.

"I know how important tourism is to businesses here, but it's also important to the broader economy in the whole Northern Grampians region in terms of driving the economy and driving jobs," he said.

"We know that it's very much linked to the natural attractions and the park, but also about events to compliment the natural attractions.

"I share the concern that recent events will have caused cancellations and people to reconsider their plans, but we're very keen to try and tell people that it's great to come up here, it's safe to come up here and that they should continue with their current bookings and any plans they have in January, February and beyond."

Dr Napthine said he would be very happy to receive a tourist promotion strategy and ensure quick consideration of any request for funding it needed to get it off the ground.

"Clearly you have an exciting agenda of events... There's a lot of things happening up here and if we can get that sort of agenda so we've got something we can promote we'll be happy to do it."

Mr Lovell said Halls Gap tourism operators would be reaching out to people from across the entire Grampians region including Roses Gap which was badly impacted by the fire last week.

"We're going to have a delegation of our people go across to see what we can do as business people from this area to assist them as well... We know some of them have been damaged fairly badly," he said.

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