A RETURN of visitors has been a welcome sight for the tourism industry after trading through what has been a tough two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Grampians region led the state during the pandemic for growth in visitor yield and nights spent in the region. Grampians Tourism chief executive officer Marc Sleeman said the winter months were generally quieter months in the region but looking into the data he calculated visitation was up by about 10 per cent from pre-pandemic levels. "It's challenging to compare year-on-year due to the pandemic, " Mr Sleeman said. "But if I look at my accomodation statistics we are well and truly above 2019 for December, January, February, March so it goes to show we have increased visitation numbers from before COVID. "We have a large domestic resident base within an hour or so of us such as Bendigo, Ballarat, Warrnambool and Geelong." Looking into the data up until March 22, the Grampians received over 1.7 million domestic visitors - up by 33.3 per cent on March 21. Visitors spent over 2.4 million nights in the region - an increase of 22.8 per cent. In total, domestic visitors spent $455 million on travel to the Grampians - up by 17.6 per cent from the previous year. Mr Sleeman said residents from across Victoria fell in love with the Grampians and the wider region. "Many people who might have headed overseas during COVID came this way because there weren't a lot of other options," he said. "The feedback has been people didn't realise the region was such a beautiful destination. We've connected with a brand new audience which is going to see repeat visitation. "This doesn't happen without strong collaboration between Grampians Tourism and our Local Government partners who have strongly supported our efforts over the last two years to ensure we are in a strong position." Mr Sleeman said the newly completed Horsham Silo was attracting a lot of attention. "It was our highest rating social media post of the year," he said. "People are wanting to have a cultural connection to our region and the silos are just one small piece of that. "Visitors are starting their silo tour in Horsham so as the weather starts to warm up more and more people will be coming to the region." Nestled between the Grampians and Horsham is Grampians Olive Co. located in Laharum. The business is the largest family-owned, single estate, certified organic olive grove in Australia. Owner Greg Matthews said he had noticed a steady flow of customers throughout the business' opening days. "It's hard to compare to pre-pandemic days because it's two years ago now," he said. "Since re-opening after COVID-19 we're only open Monday to Friday now. It's a bit of a difference as well. "We have noticed the weekdays are busier than they used to be. We notice opening on weekdays we get people who are dedicated to come and see us." Mr Matthews said visitors to Grampians Olive Co. were from a variety of destinations. "We do get a lot of local business as well as some from interstate," he said, "Quite often people are just driving down the road to view the rock art and stumble across us. "You obviously get the people who are purposely and dedicated to dropping in after doing their own research or picking up a flyer from Horsham or Halls Gap."