A NEW taskforce will aim to prepare the Grampians' tourism industry for a successful return post-COVID-19.
The Tourism Crisis Response and Grampians Recovery Taskforce includes both Grampians Tourism representatives and regional council chief executives.
The group will work with tourism businesses, associations, peak bodies and government to develop strategies to support and promote tourism in the region post COVID-19.
Grampians Tourism chief executive Marc Sleeman said the taskforce would identify and implement new plans to target key domestic markets.
"It will put us in a really strong position once people are allowed to travel," he said.
He said the Grampians offered wide open spaces and "space to breathe" for those from the city.
"More than 50 per cent of Melburnians have not stayed overnight in regional Victoria in the past 12 months."
The taskforce will identify major projects to stimulate significant tourism economic recovery. Mr Sleeman said the Grampians Peak Trail, MacKenzie Falls and the Ararat mountain-biking trail were possible focuses.
Other aims of the taskforce include to: assess direct and indirect economic effects of COVID-19; ensure participation in relevant municipal, regional or state-level emergency co-ordination committees and forums; identify both immediate and long-term barriers to trade; and develop strategies to address possible marketing and commerce opportunities.
"We want to be in a position to recover really quickly," Mr Sleeman said.
He said the region's tourism in the region had suffered greatly due to the coronavirus.
"It's been totally decimated - there's no other word for it," he said.
Mr Sleeman said the pandemic was incomparable with floods and bushfires that have previously ravaged the region.
"This is nothing we've ever seen before in modern history," he said.
"There's no rule book or game plan for recovery because it's never happened before."
Mr Sleeman said while there were tough times ahead, he believed the region would once again thrive.
"For a lot of our businesses knowing we're working in the background gives them a sense of positivity as well," he said.
Mr Sleeman urged people to continue supporting Grampians businesses throughout the shutdown.
"Now more than ever it's important to support local businesses," he said.
Along with Mr Sleeman, the taskforce includes Grampians Tourism chair Paul Hooper, business manager Serena Eldridge, brand and marketing's Sarah Myers, and directors Kayla Woods and Kylie Schurmann.
Chief executives Tim Harrison of Ararat Rural City Council, Liana Thompson of Northern Grampians, Michael Tudball of Southern Grampians Shire Council, and Sunil Bhalla of Horsham Rural City Council are also involved.
Ararat's Dr Harrison said tourism was a key sector for the region's economy.
"It is critically important for us to have a strategy for rebuilding following the COVID-19 event. Too many jobs and businesses are at stake for us not to act," he said.
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