THE most recent tourism figures from Grampians Tourism show more people than ever are visiting the region and staying for longer.
Data for the period July 2018 to June 2019 showed an increase of overnight domestic visitors of 15.3 per cent from the previous financial year.
The number of nights that domestic visitors spend in the region has gone up by 9.8 per cent.
Data for the same period showed international overnight visitors were up 9.7 per cent on the previous year, with the United Kingdom the largest source market of visitors to the region.
The UK and Europe represent over 52 per cent of all international visitation to the Grampians region and the international market represents over 12 per cent of total nights in region.
"It's great to have 15 per cent growth in visitor numbers but to have nearly 10 per cent growth in how long they stay - it's really telling about how it's working and dispersing people from the east to the south in Hamilton," Grampians Tourism chief executive Marc Sleeman said.
Mr Sleeman said the increases were the result of a multi-pronged approach to creating a brand for the region.
"I think the work we've done with our Grampians Way campaign is certainly increasing the profile of our region, but it's also the language we use and the way we talk about the experience in the Grampians that keeps people here longer," he said.
The approach forms part of Grampians Tourism's long term strategic plan.
"The goals of the strategic plan is number one, to increase the profile of the destination in our key target markets, grow visitation ... and we're achieving those results across all measures for the Grampians region.
"From a five year annual average growth we're ahead of both Melbourne, Victoria and regional Victoria across all measures in growth over the last five years.
"The work that we're doing in profiling our destination to key target markets is working. We're getting more people here, staying longer and enjoying more of what the Grampians has to offer."
Another element of the strategy is a more unified approach in which the organisation works with local government to achieve a common target.
A recent example is signs being erected throughout the region highlighting the region's wineries.
"That was an initiative of (chief executive) Tim Harrison at Ararat Rural City Council," Mr Sleeman said.
"He's taken the initiative to support the regional tourism board that is driving increased visitation in this region and he's promoting these amazing wineries.
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"We've really developing a strong collective of local government and industry partners in the Grampians and the only way that we'll continue to grow and increase our numbers is if we work in collaboration.
"We've been able to achieve greater investment in our destination marketing campaigns.
"If we can keep people here longer we all win."
Despite the growth, Mr Sleeman said the region still faced challenges that could threaten the tourism industry.
"As we have growth greater than Melbourne and regional Victoria from those average perspectives, we're going to need to address that supply side," he said.
Small businesses are struggling to get the staff they need to stay open full time.
"We've been doing a great job at driving demand for the destination and the experience but as we continue to drive that one of our goals is to look at the supply side, which talks about creating or attracting investment into the region," he said.
"So we're looking at continued growth and investment in accommodation to be able to cater for the growth in market, but also looking at skill shortage and a strategy around how do we attract new residents to fill the roles that have got skills, that are able to create a better visitor experience for our destination?"
"We've rolled out stage two of our Grampians Way campaign," Mr Sleeman said.
"We've seen over 70 per cent growth across all our measures across digital marketing and we continue to drive that front of mind awareness for our destination.
"We've got some really exciting projects in the pipeline that supports new resident attraction - we haven't released anything yet because I need some ministers to launch some of these campaigns.
"But as a regional tourism board we're doing some work around attracting new residents under a really innovative and creative marketing campaign."
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