By Shelby Brooks

TOURISTS appear to have been flocking to Phillip Island this summer, but it is unclear if they are spending big enough to help resuscitate the economy after the lengthy COVID-19 lockdown.

Island Ward Councillor Michael Whelan said Phillip Island had been “very lively” over the Christmas and New Year period.

“There is no doubt the visitors and holiday home-owners are here,” he said.

“I expect the visitor numbers translates into spending and great support for our traders who need it.

“With the year we have had the business bottom line will be hit but it is important we continue with the precautions while we wait for the rollout of the vaccine.”

Pop-up outdoor dining in San Remo and Cowes, made possible through the state government’s Outdoor Eating and Entertainment Package, has apparently been a hit with businesses and tourists alike.

“Over Christmas I used the pop-up parks for coffees and lunch, and they have been a great thing, helping to offset the COVID restrictions and as well give a friendlier feel to the town,” Cr Whelan said.

Phillip Island Nature Parks communications executive Roland Pick said visitation to the Penguin Parade, Churchill Island and the Koala Conservation Reserve had seen a drop from last year’s numbers.

“Our visitation has certainly been affected by capacity limits, most specifically at the Penguin Parade,” Roland said.

“The figures are also affected by a lack of international visitors at the moment.

“Visitation to date for December at the Koala Conservation Reserve and Churchill Island has only seen a drop of around 25-30 per cent from last year’s numbers, and the Antarctic Journey has been about the same.

“The Antarctic Journey is most popular with domestic visitors, so not surprising to see that numbers have remained fairly even.”

Roland said although visitation to the Penguin Parade was down well over 50 per cent, what needed bearing in mind were the new maximum capacity limits.

“The maximum capacity last year was over 3000 people per night, and so far in December has been between 500 and 1100 per night since the easing of restrictions,” he said.

“We’ve had many sell-out nights at the Parade with the reduced capacity, and it’s looking strong for the next few weeks at this stage.”

Over at A Maze’N Things, owner and managing director Geoff Moed, who is also a member of the Phillip Island Tourism and Business Association, said it was hard to judge if visitor numbers were more or less than last year because the business was limited with how quickly they could get guests through the doors due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“It’s hard to say if we’ve had more or less people [than last year], but we certainly have had a lot of people,” he said.

“We’ve had queues up to an hour and a half long which is a compliment to us but I’m not sure if it’s sustainable. “Whether people are making as much money is hard to say.”