But Business Victoria had to apologise to Victorians trying to claim the rebates after its website crashed, leaving tens of thousands of people disappointed.
Keen tourists were greeted with an “internal server error” when they logged on to the website, which was inundated with Victorians who tried to apply for the new voucher being distributed on a “first-come-first-served” basis.
The site recorded 800,000 visits on Friday as people struggled to lodge their applications. By close of business, 19,351 had successfully registered.
A government spokesperson confirmed late Friday that an extra 30,000 of the $200 regional tourism vouchers would be made available from Monday in recognition of the problems experienced by applicants.
“We recognise the serious inconvenience caused to many people by the website issues.” the spokesperson said.
“These extra vouchers will mean even more people have the chance to get out and about in regional Victoria this summer.”
“Victorians are clearly excited by the prospect and the extra money poured into communities across Victoria will provide a real boost for businesses and jobs.”
In order to access the vouchers, Victorians must register their details on the business.vic.gov.au website. Applicants must be Victorians, 18 years or older, with one discount allowed per household.
After their holiday, applicants will need to produce invoices and receipts to prove they spent at least $400 on approved travel by the cut-off date of February 5. The $200 will then be credited to a nominated bank account.
Friday’s release is the first of three rounds, with 120,000 vouchers in total to be given out to Victorians. The second round of 40,000 vouchers will open on January 20, for travel between January 27 and April 1. The final round will be released on March 30, for travel between April 6 and May 31.
Victoria’s opposition spokeswoman for tourism Cindy McLeish said regional tourism businesses had been “smashed” by lockdown and let down again by the website crash.
“Labor couldn’t run a chook raffle … Daniel Andrews owes Victorians who’ve wasted their time trying to apply for his failed scheme an apology,” she said.
The Business Victoria website says tourists may be audited by the Victorian government and will need to be prepared to produce receipts for up to four years after their travel.
“If any information in the registration is found to be false or misleading, any grant awarded to the applicant will have to be repaid on demand by the Victorian government,” the website states.
Victorian Tourism Industry Council chief executive Felicia Mariani said while the scheme for regional Victoria was broader than those in other parts of Australia, more vouchers were desperately needed to support Melbourne’s hospitality and tourism businesses.
She said the CBD’s tourism industry was particularly struggling because Melbourne heavily relied on international visitors, but operators “always knew regional areas were going to recover more quickly than the CBD”.
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Ashleigh McMillan is a breaking news reporter at The Age. Got a story? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org