Last-minute cancellations and uncertainty over COVID-19 has led to lower than usual tourist numbers over Easter on the New South Wales south coast.
- Tourism in regional NSW has struggled to bounce back this Easter
- Businesses grapple with last-minute COVID-19 cancellations and the impact of the recent rains
- The chair of Australian Regional Tourism said operators were feeling fatigued
While thousands of holiday-makers took advantage of blue skies and sunshine over the long weekend, bookings remained down on previous years in most areas.
The chair of Australian Regional Tourism Coralie Bell said that lingering uncertainty over COVID-19 had made people reluctant to book holidays.
“It’s beautiful to start to see the crowds come back but we’re not quite back to business as usual yet.”
Ms Bell, who is also the chair of Tourism Shoalhaven on the state’s South Coast, said many businesses had also been marred by the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19.
Ms Bell said there was also “a lot of fatigue” from operators across the state in the wake of widespread flooding and relentless downpours in recent months.
Kangaroo Valley ‘fairly busy’
The idyllic village of Kangaroo Valley in the Shoalhaven had a welcome boost to trade over the long weekend, despite the main access road from Sydney and the Southern Highlands having been cut off by a landslip since March.
Community consultative committee member, Brenda Sambrook said it did not seem to deter day-trippers.
“I think it’s been fairly busy around the town this weekend,” she said.
“There were certainly a lot of people wandering around the streets and the cafe’s looked like they had good patronage.
Music festival returns
Further south, the Four Winds music festival enjoyed a return with hundreds of people attending the towns of Cobargo and Bermagui to soak up a weekend of live tunes.
Festival creative director Lindy Hume said she was pleased with the attendance, although the festival line-up had been affected by COVID-19.
“We’ve lost a few artists to COVID, but we’ve been really lucky actually, people have been incredibly flexible,” she said.
“Audiences are still pretty anxious about COVID, so some people are choosing to not do anything in crowds.”
For those who made the trip, Ms Hume said it was a huge success.
Crescent Head fully booked
Up north, accommodation providers said bookings had been strong over the school holidays but COVID-19 continued to be a challenge.
Crescent Head holiday park manager Alison Fitzgerald said the park was full over the two weeks of the school holidays.
“We have still seen a fair few people either having to cancel due to COVID or having to delay their arrival coming out of isolation,” Ms Fitzgerald said.
BluesFest draws a crowd
Tourism businesses in the northern rivers have welcomed the arrival of Easter holiday-makers, with Bluesfest drawing a crowd for the first time in several years.
Destination North Coast chair Cameron Arnold said the influx of visitors was a shot in the arm for the region.
“From what I’ve seen and what I’ve heard, it’s been a good weekend actually,” he said.
“Bluesfest has definitely led the charge in delivering really good visitation into the region … but we’re nowhere near where we were pre-COVID unfortunately.”
Mr Arnold said the region was still rebuilding following the March floods but he hoped the Easter holiday period would mark the start of the recovery.
“It’s a huge relief to get that sign of things getting back to some form of normality and it’s what we’ve desperately, desperately needed,” he said.
“Hopefully we’ll see this kickstart into a really positive year ahead.”