NSW drought: Festivals, events, sport helping to boost visitor numbers, experts

FESTIVAL FUN: Annual festivals held across the region are playing a huge part in bringing big visitor numbers to the region, experts say.
FESTIVAL FUN: Annual festivals held across the region are playing a huge part in bringing big visitor numbers to the region, experts say.

THE region might be suffering during the drought but visitor numbers are up thanks to a wide range of festivals, events and sport on offer.

While thunderstorms have brought rain recently, 100 per cent of the Central West and Orana remain in drought with farmers, businesses and the community are suffering.

Despite this, the number of domestic overnight visitors to the Central West is up by 4.5 per cent in the past year to 2.9 million people, Destination NSW data shows.

The report for the 12 months to September 2019 also shows that the money visitors spend is up 19.8 per cent to $1.3 billion, however they're staying less nights with a 5.9 per cent drop to 7.3 million nights for the 12 months.

Central NSW Joint Organisation [JO] chair John Medcalf said he wasn't surprised by the figures and that tourism played an vital role in the region's economy.

"The [NSW] Government helped that happen, plus our JOs were helping to promote that," he said.

The biggest impact is on these small communities, it helps their businesses keep their doors open.

Central NSW Joint Organisation chair John Medcalf

"There are some fantastic things for people to look at out here."

Mr Medcalf said the benefit of increased visitors to the region was unquestionable.

"The biggest impact is on these small communities, it helps their businesses keep their doors open," he said.

Mr Medcalf said music festivals including the recent A Day on the Green in Orange and Elton John concert in Bathurst drew big crowds, while annual events such as the Flavours of Mudgee, Ironfest and Lithgow's Halloween celebrations were must-do items on people's calendars.

Sporting competitions, including the Little Athletics Region 3 Championships held in Dubbo earlier this month, also draw thousands of people to the region.

VIDEO: Elton John in Bathurst (story continues below)

"They draw people from a long way away and it just gets people together when there's been hard times which is just so important," Mr Medcalf said.

NSW Tourism Minister Stuart Ayres said the industry delivered around $42.6 billion in visitor spend to the state's economy each year.

He said tourism was often the "lifeblood" of many regional areas and it provided vital income for many small businesses such as hotels, bed and breakfasts, cafes, restaurants and shops.

"Events and festivals play a big role in attracting visitors to country areas as it gives a timeframe for people to visit, and adds value to visitors' experience in region," Mr Ayres said.

"Events can also generate visitation through participation, contractors and volunteers who are involved, so they are a huge opportunity for local businesses to welcome and accommodate these guests no matter where they are from."

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This story Festivals helping to boost visitor numbers during the drought first appeared on Daily Liberal.