Dubbo Cowra Wotif Aussie Town of the Year awards, top 10

Welcome to town: Cowra's Japanese Gardens manager Shane Budge with Cowra Tourism Corporation's tourism manager, Belinda Virgo. Photo: Matthew Chown.
Welcome to town: Cowra's Japanese Gardens manager Shane Budge with Cowra Tourism Corporation's tourism manager, Belinda Virgo. Photo: Matthew Chown.

Two towns in central west, NSW have been recognised for their unique contribution to Australian tourism in a recent travel award.

Cowra and Dubbo came in sixth and ninth respectively in online travel site Wotif’s 2019 Wotif Aussie Town of the Year awards.

Now in its second year, the Wotif Aussie Town of the Year awards are based on Wotif pricing and demand data, and for the first time, traveller reviews, unearthing 2019’s up-and-coming destinations.

Wotif travel expert Chris Mulligan said both Cowra and Dubbo’s year-on-year demand has grown by more than 10 per cent.

Dubbo’s average accommodation rate was $143 per night and Cowra’s $131, which made them both really affordable destination for families, he said.

“Both of them have excellent traveler review scores on Wotif.com, so over four out of five,” Mr Mulligan said.

Being so close to metropolitan areas such as Sydney will only help both towns tourism, Mr Mulligan said.

“It’s a great opportunity to start talking about why people in the city should come out and experience regional Australia and see these regional towns…,” he said.

Mr Mulligan said the big tourist attractions in Dubbo, including Taronga Western Plains Zoo has helped make a great name for the town.

“But it wasn’t just the tourist attractions that helped it (Dubbo) rank (in the top 10). It really was the affordability and demand we’ve seen going into Dubbo,” he said.

“Similar in Cowra...”

Tourism manager at the Cowra Tourism Corporation Belinda Virgo said she was blown away by the results.

“What an accolade, it’s just wonderful to get that sort of recognition and that sort of promotion for our region and members and businesses,” she said.

Ms Virgo said over a quarter of a million visitors come in to Cowra each year and stay an average of three days.

Research shows that the majority of people visit Cowra for history and heritage purposes, Ms Virgo said.

Some of the major attractions include the Cowra POW campsite, the Australian World Peace Bell and the Japanese Garden.

Thousands of regional and domestic, overnight and international visitors flock to Cowra’s annual cherry blossom festival each spring, Ms Virgo said.

”Spring is traditionally quite busy for us because at the same time we also run our Cowra canola tours as well, which are really popular, especially with our international and domestic, overnight visitors from Sydney and Canberra,” she said.

The wine region was also another tourist draw-card for Cowra, Ms Virgo said, with many people attending the Cowra Wine Show in August.

The Cowra tourism centre receives 60,000 visitors per year, thanks to its great position on the highway and the hologram theatre based in the centre.

“Lots of visitors come here as their first stop in Cowra to learn more about the rich war history of our region and it’s kind of perfect in a way because they come in here to watch the hologram and we’ve got the opportunity to greet the customers and educate them about all things to see and do in Cowra,” Ms Virgo said.

“Our goal is to turn around a short visit, or passing through visit, into return customers or get them to extend their stay.”

A huge proportion of Cowra’s visitors are visiting friends and relatives, Ms Virgo said.

“About 45 per cent of people who come to Cowra know someone here…. and that’s usually the 30 plus (age),” she said.

“The other portion is usually the overnight, domestic visitors coming from Sydney and Canberra (our key markets), they’re again 30 plus years.”

Dubbo Regional Council Mayor Ben Shields was pleased with the results and said the city is doing well despite the drought.

“I think it shows Dubbo is starting to be put on the map.. not only as a regional city but for its unique character…,” he said.

Cr Shields said Dubbo is a vibrant place to be and what helps set the town a part from other areas is that we’re prepared to have a laugh at ourselves, which makes it stand out.

“City’s make the mistake that they’ve got to take themselves seriously, but at the end of the day you need character,” he said.

Tourism developments and business prospects has helped the city prosper, Cr Shields said.