• Matt Sykes

State of Wellbeing

By Matt Sykes

Let’s face it, our home state could use a good old-fashioned rebrand about now. We’re thinking of a reposition away from ‘Sicktoria’ and towards a ‘Victoria: State of Wellbeing’.

Geelong Sea Baths, part of the Great Victorian Bathing Trail

Let’s unpack the narrative, starting with some of our strengths. Part of the Victorian cultural legacy is our strong connection to nature and the great outdoors, expressed through our park and garden tradition. We also have an incredibly stunning coastline filled with beaches, bays, harbours and rivers. Put these in the context of a global pandemic and we’ve realised how much we depend on these green and blue spaces for our physical and mental health.

In short, Victoria is good at nature and wellbeing, from urban areas through to regional. But how do you bundle that together into a brand? We think that nature-based wellness tourism is part of the solution.

Last Spring, I published a strategy for an iconic 900km tourism route called the Great Victorian Bathing Trail (GVBT). Imagine a ribbon of hot springs, bathing and wellbeing experiences dotted along Victoria’s southern coastline. It would be a nice escape from our living rooms right now hey! The GVBT Strategy was backed by the Victorian Tourism Industry Council through the Lynette Bergin Fellowship and Peninsula Hot Springs, my employer at the time. You can read the full strategy here.

Lorne Sea Baths, part of the Great Victorian Bathing Trail

Key destinations - the backbone of the Great Vic Bathing Trail:

Metung Hot Springs, Lake King

Nunduk Spa Retreat, Lake Wellington

Gippsland Regional Aquatic Centre, Traralgon (heated by geothermal)

Saltwater Hot Springs, Phillip Island

Peninsula Hot Springs, Mornington Peninsula (existing)

Alba Thermal Springs, Mornington Peninsula

Yarra Pools, Melbourne

Geelong Mineral Baths, Geelong

Eden Project Anglesea, Anglesea

Lorne Sea Baths, Lorne

12 Apostles Hot Springs, Port Campbell

Deep Blue Hotel & Hot Springs, Warrnambool (existing)

There’s also the possibility to weave links with areas like Daylesford and facilities like Hepburn Bathhouse which sit off the Trail but are part of the broader experience of Victoria’s wellbeing culture. What if we flipped the stigma around the phrase ‘cluster’ so that each destination was the heart of a community ‘wellbeing’ cluster? Think walking and cycling trails, organic farms and cafes, yoga and mindfulness studios.

Saltwater Hot Springs, part of the Great Victorian Bathing Trail (Credit: Saltwater Hot Springs & Tract Consultants)

Our estimates are that by 2030 the GVBT has the potential to enable over:

1000 Jobs

$500 million in public & private investment

$2 billion in regional economic flow-on, and

2 million nature-based wellbeing travel experiences

Ultimately, hot springs and wellness tourism present a significant and bold opportunity for our state. The GVBT is a year-round tourist attractor which celebrates renewable natural resources that perfectly match our southeast Australian climate AND it can regenerate Victoria’s regional communities and ecosystems.

Regeneration Projects is now working with industry leaders to progress the GVBT Strategy, with a cross-sector roundtable scheduled before the end of the year. We’re pretty excited for 2021 to be filled with conversations while sitting in hot pools, saunas and sea baths.

How about you?

Further reading - the Great Victorian Bathing Trail in the media:

Global Wellness Institute Hot Springs Initiative

International Spa Business magazine

Spa & Clinic online

Gippslandia magazine

Australasian Leisure Magazine magazine

The Standard Warrnambool

An iconic 900km hot springs and wellness tourism trail (see yellow line)

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