STATE Tourism and Major Events Minister Louise Asher braved the cold last Tuesday week to take a boat trip to see the long-dormant Otama submarine.
Ms Asher stressed the importance of the tourism industry on the local economy and said she hoped to see the Otama up and running as a tourist attraction in Hastings in the future.
"I am focused on tourist expenditure - obviously the ultimate aim is to attract people for an overnight stay. We are injecting a lot of money into tourism advertising to lure people into towns across Victoria," she said.
Hastings MP Neale Burgess said it was a goal to see the Otama brought to shore as a tourism attraction. "There a few boxes left to tick, the most important one being to finalise a location for it."
He said a feasibility study conducted by the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council revealed the submarine had the potential to generate more than $5 million annually as a tourist attraction.
"I am hoping we will have a direction for the Otama within the next 12 months. I want to see a big sign up on the freeway that will convince people to turn right rather than turning left.
''I think the Western Port side of the peninsula is a very interesting place to experience, with dramatic differences Port Phillip Bay."
During her visit to Hastings, Ms Asher launched a combined tourism employment plan for Mornington Peninsula and Phillip Island.
The plan, a joint initiative between the state and federal governments, is designed to address skills and staff shortages in the industry and provide a boost for tourism operators.
As part of the program, tourism operators will be consulted on ways they can improve their business through additional staff training.
"We will be consulting local businesses including hotels, cafes, restaurants, travel agents and retail businesses to develop a targeted plan as part of our overarching strategy to further grow Victoria's $15.2 billion tourism industry, which employs 193,000 people," Ms Asher said.
"It is a good example of the two governments co-operating to assist tourism operators in generating their own profitability."
Mr Burgess said Tourism Research Australia data showed the Mornington Peninsula had the second-highest number of tourism businesses employing workers in regional Victoria.
"The Mornington Peninsula is a much-loved Victorian getaway location and it is growing in popularity with interstate and overseas tourists," he said.
"The coalition government is committed to supporting these local businesses to ensure we can continue to capitalise on this growth in our tourism industry."