An uptick in hotel bookings has given operators cause for optimism there will be an increase in tourists coming to the territory, putting aside fears an exodus of locals would hamper the reopening.
The ACT government will invest in a marketing campaign in an effort to reboot demand at Canberra businesses, choosing advertising instead of vouchers to help the post-lockdown recovery.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr on Friday confirmed free movement between the ACT and Victoria would recommence from November 1, in line with NSW.
Canberrans will also be able to travel freely between the ACT and Greater Sydney from November.
Operators also expect Canberra's world-leading COVID-19 vaccination rate to make the city attractive as a safe tourism destination.
The new marketing campaign, set to begin in the next week, will encourage Canberrans to visit local tourism attractions, dine out and shop locally as restrictions ease.
Canberra Region Tourism Leaders Forum chair David Marshall said open borders combined with a strong calendar of upcoming events in the ACT would dramatically stimulate the number of visitors.
"Driving holidays are going to be very, very popular. So the drive market out of Sydney and regional NSW into the ACT will be, I think, very strong," Dr Marshall said.
"There used to be a major exodus to the coast, and I'm sure there'll be lots of people who go down to the coast. But still a lot of people stay around Canberra and a lot of people will come into Canberra. And one of the other driving forces will be visiting friends and relatives."
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The ACT government is counting on pent up demand and the willingness of Canberrans to support local businesses to boost the tourism economy as the city begins to open up, with the marketing campaign to begin in the coming week.
The general manager of the Australian Hotels Association ACT branch, Anthony Brierley, said holidaymakers were not confident to book in advance, even if they already intend to come to Canberra.
"Anything will look rosier compared to where we are right now or where we've been over the past 10 weeks," Mr Brierley said.
Mr Brierley said he expected people were travel hungry and vaccine uptake in Canberra would help sell the city as a destination for potential tourists.
"If we're one of the most vaccinated cities in the world, we're one of the safest cities to visit in the whole world," he said.
While Dr Marshall was confident there would be a boost in tourism to the ACT, he said the ACT government should consider a targeted voucher scheme if trade was found to be lower than expected.
"The vouchers work very well when they're particularly targeted, so if you can use them only in restaurants or only for accommodation, then that would be an interesting idea," he said.
The ACT will not move to replicate a $250 million NSW scheme which will offer every adult in the state a $50 voucher to spend on a hotel in the state.
An ACT government spokeswoman said that type of voucher scheme would only be effective in larger jurisdictions with their own internal tourism destinations.
"As a city state, ACT residents are not really a market for our local accommodation providers. And while some Canberrans take staycations from time to time, they holiday outside of the ACT - especially after two months of heavily restricted travel," the spokeswoman said.
"We know the accommodation and tourism sector has been one of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic due to travel restrictions.
"The ACT government is continuing to invest so we can recover our $2.5 billion tourism and events sector. This includes investing in targeted programs providing immediate financial support followed by investment in experience and industry development as well as driving future demand in order to grow expenditure and jobs."
More than $75 million in COVID-19 business support grants, which were funded by the ACT and the Commonwealth, went to tourism and accommodation sector businesses.
An extra $19 million will go to the sector from the tourism, accommodation provider, arts and events, hospitality and fitness top-up payments, while the ACT COVID-Safe tourism co-investment program will add another $750,000 to developing new infrastructure or experiences to attract overnight visitors to the ACT.
The ACT business sector called for extra financial support earlier this month, potentially including a voucher program akin to the controversial ChooseCBR scheme.
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The trouble-plagued ChooseCBR scheme's website was pulled down in June after crashing multiple times, before $800,000 of its $2 million budget was spent in just a few hours.
The ACT government was warned the voucher scheme was susceptible to financial fraud, but pushed ahead with the $2 million program despite having "limited mechanisms" to monitor transactions, documents released under freedom of information in July showed.
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