The COVID pandemic devastated many industries, tourism and events being one of the most impacted with Surf Coast-based event companies hit particularly hard.
Forced cancellations pushed many operations to the brink and cost the local economy millions. Some local event operators, however, have been able to successfully pivot thanks to the concept of ‘virtual events’ backed by ongoing support from the Surf Coast Shire Council via its new events strategy.
“It was a bleak outlook,” said Chris Ord, Director of Anglesea-based, Tour de Trails, which operates events and trail running tours. “Regular event gatherings were out the window – but the community has been extraordinarily supportive by engaging in virtual events.”
Tour de Trails’ virtual Afterglow Night Trail Run took place last weekend with more than 350 participating locally, across the state, Australia and the globe.
“We had one Afterglow runner register in the USA and one in Germany!” said Chris. “And I know there are more Surf Coast virtual events to come – cycling, running and swimming – and there have been great virtual live music events on the Surf Coast, too.”
“While it’s not the same as being there, virtual events still encourage people to do something different, challenge themselves and feel part of something bigger.”
“In a period where no one could travel, I think ‘virtuals’ have kept the Surf Coast front of mind as a destination to get back to soonest while also maintaining a strong sense of community that springs up around our events.”
Chris said he felt excited to now be at the stage where COVID-safe events will be able to ramp up again.
“Reports show that collectively events are responsible for attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors across the year, representing multiple millions of dollars in economic stimulus to the region, a factor that will be crucial in recovering from the devastating impacts of COVID on local businesses,” he said.
“But events aren’t just about pumping money into the economy, they create vibrant communities where people can get together, relax and have fun. Events allow us to discover trails, connect with nature and each other. The pandemic has certainly highlighted how important community connectedness is for our overall wellbeing.”