Tourism venues packed for new year

Blowering Dam remains a popular spot for travellers. Photo by John Stanfield.

Tourism boomed across the Snowy Valleys this Christmas and New Year’s period, and despite a number of Victorian travellers having to return home when the border was closed last Friday, bookings appear to be filling right back up.

Laura Schoeman, manager of Amaroo Motel Tumut, says that she has been completely booked out since Boxing Day.

When asked how the holiday season was for the motel, she summed it up as “hectic.”

“We’ve been fully booked… from the 26th of December right through.

“This year was about the same actually [as last year] but not so constant, we had breaks in between.”

Ms Schoeman said that a large number of bookings have been from New South Wales residents.

“I think because people are only allowed to travel in New South Wales, we’ve been having to show people somewhere else to go and stay,” she said.

There were a number of Victorian’s holidaying in the region; however, they had to return home quickly on New Year’s Eve when a border closure was announced last Thursday.

The hard border came into effect the following day, January 1, with Victorian residents having to make a hasty return home before then, or risk having to undergo two weeks of hotel quarantine upon arrival.

It is estimated that more than 60,000 Victorians dashed home from NSW after the announcement was made.

“We had quite a few cancellations because of that as well,” Ms Schoeman said.

“As soon as they cancelled, it sold up again, so there was no loss there, which is really good.”

The VIC-NSW border was also closed last year in response to the Covid-19 outbreak in Victoria; that time, from the NSW side.

Ms Schoeman explained that the previous closure had more of a strain on business than this time.

“Last year when the borders closed we had days that we didn’t have any bookings at all, it just went back on my books, so there was loss for work for my cleaners,” she said.

“Compared to this year, it doesn’t seem to affect us at all.”

It’s a similar story at Harriet House in Tumut, which has seen good business throughout the holiday season.

“We had a lot of cancellations in the beginning, but the bookings soon filled it back in when the Covid outbreak didn’t seem to get as bad as everyone thought,” a manager said.

Matt Pearce at the Tumut Riverglade Caravan Park said they have been completely “flat out”.

“We’ve been run off our feet, as busy as any Christmas,” he said.

He said there was little impact because of the Victorian border closure, with only a few people needing to leave. Cancellations were made, but were quickly filled.

“There were some people that wanted to come from Victoria that had to cancel, but the opposite effect is that lots of NSW people were booked to go to Victoria and then couldn’t, so they cancelled their booking in Victoria and came here instead,” he said.

Mr Pearce said there is change and growth occurring in the local tourism industry off the back of the pandemic.

“A lot of people are camping and travelling locally instead of going overseas, so we’re definitely predicting a strong summer,” he said.

James Smith at the Talbingo Caravan Park said they were booked out over the peak periods of Christmas and New Year’s.

Most of their bookings were from New South Wales, from nearby towns of Albury and Wagga Wagga, however there were a few from Victoria.

He said that the border closure didn’t impact them too greatly, aside from a few people having to “leave a day or two early, but that was about it.”

They had a few more bookings these holidays compared to previous years, and the outlook for January is “very good.”

The border closure appears to have had a greater impact on border towns and accommodation venues, such as the Khancoban Lakeside Caravan Park. Manager Debbie Rowlinson said that on New Year’s Eve, 95 per cent of people in the park had to return home to Victoria.

“We started the year, 2020, of evacuating the park, and we ended the year on 31st of December with nearly a full evacuation of the park,” she explained.