Holidaymakers hoping to snap up one of the Victorian government’s $200 tourism vouchers have been left disappointed and frustrated after the website crashed on Friday morning.
The business.vic.gov.au website showed a white screen with an “internal server error” message when Victorians tried to apply for a voucher from 10am on a “first-come-first-served” basis.
Those who managed to access the website after some time were then left searching for a non-existent “apply now” button. After about an hour, an “apply now” button appeared on the website, but it was not active.
On a positive note, the state reached its 42nd consecutive day without a new coronavirus case on Friday after 9760 Victorians were tested on Thursday.
The state government planned to open registration for 40,000 travel vouchers online at 10am, with applicants able to claim $200 back on accommodation, tours or ticket prices if they spend at least $400 on a regional Victorian holiday.
The discount can only be redeemed after the travel has been taken, with the first round of vouchers to only apply to travel in the regions, including the Mornington Peninsula and the Yarra Valley, between December 12 and January 22.
At midday on Friday, a Business Victoria spokesman said the website was “experiencing heavy demand for regional travel vouchers which resulted in the application page initially going offline followed by further disruption”.
The “apply now” button was temporarily removed to allow those who were able to begin registering to finish the process.
“Business Victoria is continuing to work to resolve issues and apologises for the inconvenience,” the spokesman said.
Age reader Nick said he believed the productivity of Victoria’s workforce fell to zero per cent about 10am, “with everyone madly hitting the refresh button on their [internet] browsers”.
“The ‘Apply Now’ button on the page also doesn’t seem to have been activated, it’s like a Where’s Wally puzzle trying to find it!” he said.
Reader Maddi said she had already booked a New Year’s trip to Phillip Island. “We’ll still be going but would love a small financial bump after a difficult year,” she said.
Lou assumed the Victorian government had planned “for a huge uptake by Melburnians and therefore would have ensured its IT platforms were up to scratch”.
“Extremely disappointed. What a waste of time/a lot of hype for nothing,” Lou said.
In order to access the vouchers, Victorians must register their details on the business.vic.gov.au website. You must be a Victorian 18 years or older, with one discount per household.
After their holiday, applicants will need to produce invoices and receipts to prove they spent at least $400 on approved travel by the cut off date of February 5. The $200 will then be credited to a nominated bank account.
Friday’s release is the first of three rounds, with 120,000 vouchers in total to be given out to Victorians. The second round of 40,000 vouchers will open on January 20, for travel between January 27 and April 1.
The final round will be released on March 30, for travel between April 6 and May 31.
In response to the website crash, Victoria’s opposition spokeswoman for tourism Cindy McLeish said regional tourism businesses “have been smashed by Andrews’ lockdown, and now Labor has let them down again”.
“Labor couldn’t run a chook raffle … Daniel Andrews owes Victorians who’ve wasted their time trying to apply for his failed scheme an apology,” she said.
On the Business Victoria website, it states tourists may be audited by the Victorian government and will need to be prepared to produce receipts for up to four years after their travel.
“If any information in the registration is found to be false or misleading, any grant awarded to the applicant will have to be repaid on demand by the Victorian government,” the website states.
Victorian Tourism Industry Council chief executive Felicia Mariani said while the scheme for regional Victoria was broader than those in other parts of Australia, more vouchers were desperately needed to support Melbourne’s hospitality and tourism businesses.
She said the CBD’s tourism industry was particularly struggling because Melbourne heavily relied on international visitors, but operators “always knew regional areas were going to recover more quickly than the CBD”.
“We do firmly believe that – hopefully – there will be a big rush, we’d like to see as many people travelling around our regions as possible,” Ms Mariani told radio station 3AW on Friday morning.
On Friday morning 409 international arrivals were in Melbourne quarantine hotels, including 24 people with COVID-19 symptoms or complex health needs in the Novotel “hot hotel”.
All international arrivals who land in Melbourne from Friday will spend Christmas Day in hotel quarantine, as their fortnight in mandatory isolation will not end before December 25.