Tourism at Yarrangobilly Caves has been as busy – or busier – than ever, despite fire damage to the precinct and the closure of most of the caves during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Bernadette Zanet from NSW Parks and Wildlife said the caves are starting to reopen now, and operators are preparing for a very busy summer with Australians looking domestically for their Christmas holidays instead of overseas.
“We just last week got permission to reopen cave tours,” said Ms Zanet, “Which is really good.
“Our self guided cave is now open – South Glory Cave. ‘Jilla’ Cave will be open at the end of November and Jersey Cave will be open for the summer season as well.”
The caves precinct was evacuated ahead of the Dunns Road fire last year, with crowds being ushered quickly out of the region on December 31.
“Despite the fires around we were busy, so we evacuated completely,” remembered Ms Zanet.
“The fires went through the caves precinct on the afternoon of the January 4. We were very fortunate we had six very well prepared field officers on site who had a good fire strategy in place and knew the place well.
“We didn’t lose any major infrastructure at all.”
Tourists weren’t allowed into the area because of fire cleanup operations and dangerous trees and debris, but the caves’ accommodation facilities were leased to Future Generation, a contractor for Snowy 2.0.
“Of course with Covid coming in, which was unexpected for all, the partnership with Future Generation has continued and been really important,” said Ms Zanet.
With Australia’s national borders still closed to most travellers, tourism operators are gearing up for a potentially hectic season.
“I think everybody is anticipating that domestic tourism will be quite strong over the summer period unless there’s further restrictions that are put in place,” said Ms Zanet.
“The big change for us and other tourism operators will be when international tourism [starts] again. We will work very hard to attract international tourism here, but a lot of our tourists here will be going overseas as well.”
Ms Zanet said the next major challenge for Australian tourism operators will likely hit in 12 to 18 months.