John and Anne Templin, of Hawthorn, check out the Port Fairy Folk Festival program on their phone after setting up their tent at Southcombe Caravan Park. This is their 17th festival. THE south-west economy will receive a multi-million-dollar boost as tens of thousands of people flock to the region this long weekend.
Nanjing Night Net

The district’s main drawcard over the Labour Day weekend, the Port Fairy Folk Festival, is estimated to bring about 20,000 people to the small coastal town over four days.

Warrnambool will also be flooded with visitors for a range of major sporting events, including 140 players for the Victorian Tenpin Bowling Country Cup, the Seaside Volleyball Tournament, which will welcome a record 73 teams, and the Warrnambool Lawn Tennis Club Open, which has attracted more than 750 entries.

Portland is not without its own influx of visitors, as thousands travel from interstate and overseas for the biggest dahlia flower show in Australia, the 2012 Portland Dahlia and Rose Festival.

Member for South West Coast Denis Napthine said the Folkie was one of the biggest events in the region and generated hundreds of millions of dollars in spin-off spending.

“It’s an event that just keeps on giving for the south-west,” Dr Napthine said.

“Port Fairy is choc-a-block but the benefits flow over to Warrnambool, Koroit, Hawkesdale, down to Portland.

“Right through the region we get benefits from the festival.

“The same people that come to the folk festival for the music and the atmosphere of the festival come back weeks and months later to enjoy the restaurants and beauty of the coastline of the south-west.

“They often fall in love with the atmosphere of Port Fairy, they have a look at Tower Hill and Warrnambool, then they come back time and time again for holidays in the region.

“The folk festival really puts Port Fairy on the tourist map and all year round we get benefits from that.

“It also generates money that goes back into community programs over the year because the committee do such a great job of funding local health and community services.”

Warrnambool City Council tourism services manager Peter Abbott said Warrnambool enjoyed a spillover effect from the Folkie, but tourism operators were also busy with the various sporting events bringing competitors to the city. “It’s not sexy tourism but it certainly puts bums in beds,” Mr Abbott said.

“March and April can be just as busy for tourist operators as January. There are a lot of caravans on the road already, with people heading toward Warrnambool and Port Fairy.”

Yesterday hundreds of Folkie fans started arriving early to set up for the big weekend at the town’s 800 campsites and 2000 accommodation venue beds.

Port Fairy Visitor Information Centre manager Andrea Lowenthal, who has been guiding tourists since 1988, said it was by far Moyne Shire’s biggest attraction.

“I’ve seen it evolve over the years into something massive. The economic impact is absolutely huge and community groups benefit so much from it.”

Ms Lowenthal estimated there would be up to 15,000 visitors staying in the town this weekend, plus thousands of day visitors.

“People come from all over Australia and overseas.”

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