Melburnians are rushing to book getaways this summer in the hope that restrictions will be lifted in time to break free from the city for the Christmas holidays.

Some accommodation operators have reported strong demand for Christmas and January even though it remains unclear when Melburnians will be allowed to travel beyond the city limits.

Residents of regional Victoria are permitted to travel within the state outside of Melbourne.

Crowds enjoying the beach in Torquay. The Surf Coast is expected to be busy this summer. Credit:Paul Jeffers

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said restrictions would be reviewed on October 19 but he stressed no changes would be made that risked spreading the virus into regional Victoria, which on Sunday had three active cases.

“So metro Melbourne really needs to get to the point where the risk is so low that you can basically allow movement across the state,” he said.

BIG4 Holiday Parks chief executive Steven Wright expected the company’s 35 sites across Victoria would be full during Christmas and the first three weeks of January.

“Everyone’s assuming they’ll have certainty by Christmas,” he said.

Arrivals during September were down by about 50 per cent compared to 2019 in Victoria.

The outlook for summer holidays is much brighter, with bookings up 7 per cent in December and 10 per cent in January, compared to the previous year. But in February bookings are down 30 per cent.

Mr Wright said the figures showed parents feared missing out for the school holidays but bookings were down pre-Christmas because they felt uncertain about the level of restrictions that would be in place.

He said bookings for cabins were stronger than caravans because the self-contained units allowed holidaymakers to more easily keep to themselves rather than using shared facilities.

Mr Wright said the parks had COVID-safe plans and numbers would be limited in shared bathrooms. Indoor games rooms may also be restricted this summer depending on government guidelines.

“You can still have your fun, ride your bikes and do all the things kids like to do in the parks.”

At the Clifftop at Hepburn villas, at Hepburn Springs, owner David Penman said bookings had soared again as Melburnians geared up to travel within Victoria when restrictions were relaxed.

After months of slower-than-usual trading and a 50 per cent loss in income during coronavirus, the increase in bookings from both metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria at his business had made him hopeful for the summer.

Hepburn Springs accommodation operator David Penman Credit:Simon Schluter

“You could hear a pin drop, it was pretty quiet,” Mr Penman said. “Bookings have increased exponentially, they’re growing all the time, which is fantastic news.”

He said the beauty of regional Victoria was often overlooked by Melburnians as they opted to travel interstate or overseas. But with international travel off the cards, he expressed confidence that people would flock to the regions.

“You’re going to get a lot of people that want to escape Alcatraz Melbourne that won’t be able to do it regionally because it will be saturated if they don’t book soon.”

But on the Mornington Peninsula the outlook is less certain. Mornington Peninsula Regional Tourism Board chair Tracey Cooper said it remained unclear whether camping would be allowed or if there would be density quotas for the region’s 24,000 holiday homes.

“If we’ve got to have limited density in those holiday homes that’s going to limit us terribly,” she said.

Victorian Tourism Industry Council chief executive Felicia Mariani said Melburnians were becoming hopeful they may be free for their long-awaited summer break.

“There is a real shift in consumer sentiment. The people are starting to think about venturing out again, people are very keen to get out,” she said.

Airbnb head of public policy for Australia, Derek Nolan, said the company had contacted hosts to convey the “critical need” to follow government advice and stick to the rules.

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