ALMOST $18 million could be injected into our economy this weekend when the biggest water ski race in the world kicks off in Echuca-Moama.
A Campaspe Shire survey from last year showed more than 40,000 visitors flocked to the region, tripling our population.
Almost 85 per cent of them were from outside Campaspe or Murray River Council and 95.7 per cent had attended previously.
But perhaps the biggest jaw-dropping statistic is the whopping $17.9 million estimated economic contribution.
‘‘That’s huge proportions,’’ Echuca Moama Tourism chief executive Kathryn Mackenzie said.
‘‘This is my first Southern 80 so I am looking forward to it.
‘‘I am amazed that an event like this pulls such a huge audience.
‘‘It’s a long running event for the community and when I was in Bendigo we always knew the event was on because the road was just bumper to bumper so it does impact on other regions as well.’’
Ms Mackenzie said accommodation centres were ‘‘heavily booked’’ and you could feel the energy around the town.
Beechworth Bakery manager Kylie Divola said she expected more than double the customers to walk through her doors compared to any other weekend in February.
‘‘It’s really busy and it’s a fun weekend,’’ she said.
‘‘The Ned Kelly pies seem to be the most popular item — that’s steak, bacon, egg and cheese.’’
Committee for Echuca Moama chief executive Martin Szakal said the 80 provided ‘‘great exposure’’ for the town.
‘‘It gives insights for the visitors who come here. They are able to see what’s on offer,’’ he said.
‘‘As we know historically many people come to the area as visitors and choose to live here and/or start businesses.
‘‘So of course that’s great for sustaining the local economy.’’
Campaspe Shire mayor Adrian Weston said it would be a big weekend.
‘‘It’s huge,’’ Cr Weston said.
‘‘I hope everyone has a great, but importantly safe, weekend.
‘‘We’ve got the Southern 80 this weekend followed by Riverboats the next.’’
On the other side of the river, Murray River Council mayor Chris Bilkey said the 80 provided a ‘‘terrific boom’’ to his council area but especially gave the township of Moama a leg-up.
‘‘It absolutely helps MRC,’’ Cr Bilkey said.
‘‘The most obvious measures are the accommodation centres which do very well but all the businesses – the restaurants and the pubs – they look forward to this weekend because it’s a great part of the summer.
‘‘I believe we’ve been supporting it since its inception and we’re proud and committed to continue to do so.’’