An online tourism campaign that uses colourful language to urge people to stay away from regional Victoria has raised the ire of some of the regions its trying to promote.
The ‘Do not visit Victoria’ campaign is the brainchild of Jess Wheeler, a Melbourne-based associate creative director with advertising agency Fenton Stephens.
It features art-deco style advertising posters that at first glance promote regional towns, before the punchline of the ‘anti-tourism tourism’ campaign hits.
Mr Wheeler said his message to fellow Melburnians in lockdown was simple.
“People of Melbourne, we love you, but right now you are letting us all the f**k down,” Mr Wheeler said.
“As we enter our second lockdown, amid the highest infection numbers to date, the gravity [of the situation] appears to have eluded some of you.”
Mr Wheeler created the campaign with fellow Melbourne-based collaborator Guillermo Carvajal.
The pair say their work was characterised by their sense of humour, something they hoped came across in the posts.
“We were just spit-balling ideas as to what we can do in this situation, and were reading about how people from Melbourne were fleeing to regional Victoria, either to their holiday homes or just tyring to shack up in hotels,” Mr Wheeler said.
“It was quite distressing for the towns that don’t have the infrastructure to handle an outbreak.
No laughing matter
Not all regional shires represented are happy to be represented.
Cr Peter Roper, Mayor of the Alpine Shire that includes the holiday hotspot of Bright, said he understood the joke but questioned whether it was appropriate.
“I get the humour, but in reality it’s probably one step too far for quite a large number of people in our community,” he said.
“We have people in our communities who have come through the bushfires, gone through first round of COVID-19 and now have alpine resorts closing on them.
“That puts an enormous burden on the residents and our communities when we’ve got business accommodation providers closing because people from Melbourne are trying to circumvent the rules around lockdown to try to holiday in our area.”
Jason Schram is the Mayor of Colac-Otway Shire, a region encompassing Apollo Bay that is yet to record a positive case of COVID-19.
Cr Schram said he did not find it amusing either.
“People in regions like the Colac-Otway Shire have adhered to the rules and done everything right, but businesses are [still] closing and people are out of work.
“I personally didn’t see the funny side of it.
“We still do want people to come visit — obviously not from the lockdown areas of Melbourne, but people in the south-west from Colac-Otway to the South Australian border are COVID-free and there’s no reason we can’t help each other out and travel amongst ourselves.”
A serious message
The original campaign featured six towns, but has since extended their promotion to include towns like Ballarat and Bendigo.
The pair has released the designs on Facebook and is also selling merchandise featuring the designs online.
“We’ve just set up a website, but we’re not making any money on it,” Mr Wheeler said.
“The plan originally was it was just going to be a message, but we got a lot of people saying to us ‘Can I purchase these?’ or ‘Are you going to make t-shirts or prints or tea towels?’, which seem to be extremely popular for some reason.
Mr Wheeler said despite the tongue-in-cheek delivery, there was a serious message within the promotions.
“This situation is about us all sticking together,” he said.