Sydney travellers bring cheer to Southern Highlands

Businesses in the Southern Highlands have enjoyed a bumper week of trade, as Sydney travellers visited the region for the first time since the COVID-19 lockdown began in May. 

Key points:Southern Highlands businesses say people from Sydney flocked to the area from the day travel resumedMore than 1.5 million daytrippers travel to the Southern Highlands from Sydney each yearSome businesses say they will need several years to recover their losses after lockdown

Accommodation was largely booked up over the weekend, and cafes were bustling.

Centennial Vineyards Cellar Door manager Natalie Dare said it was exciting to welcome back Sydney tourists, who make up about 80 per cent of their business.

She said the restaurant was booked out over the weekend despite the wet weather.

"We're just grateful to be back in business and we're looking forward to everyone coming to visit us," Ms Dare said.

"We weren't sure how it would play, but being a little bit cold and drizzly is probably not a bad thing because we were thinking if it was sunny people, would just flock to the beach.

"Lucky for us, [we have a] cool climate vineyard and everyone likes a wine when it's cooler." 

Down the mountain in Kangaroo Valley, Hampden Deli co-owner Nick Gardner said business had been booming since Monday when travel between Greater Sydney and regional NSW resumed.

Nick Gardner and Stevie Bounader
Nick Gardner and Stevie Bounader are excited by the return of metropolitan travellers in time for summer. (ABC News: Jessica Clifford )

"We're seeing both a mix of locals and people down here from Sydney. 

"We're also seeing travellers, caravans, boats and even a lot more motorbikes.

"It's very exciting," he said. 

Momentum needs to continue

While the local streets are getting busier, Destination Southern Highlands tourism coordinator Izabella Lane said businesses were likely to feel the pinch for at least a few years.

She said domestic day trippers from Sydney brought $118 million to the economy each year, so when that stopped, things got tough. 

"We get about 1.5 million domestic day visitors annually," Ms Lane said.

"It's a big market for us. You can imagine when that is shut down it has a huge impact on the economy." 

Co-owner of the Empire Cinema in Bowral Gerard Aiken said he needed a couple of years to return to normality. 

A man in a cinema.
Gerard Aiken says he needs a couple of years without a bushfire or another lockdown for business to return to normal.(ABC News: Jessica Clifford)

"The losses have been quite extreme for everyone," Mr Aiken said.

"We need a couple of good weeks, months or even years of steady business without a pandemic or a bushfire," he said. 

Major events in the Southern Highlands have been rescheduled until next year, and the goal is to bring more people to the region during the off-peak period.

This includes the Food and Wine Festival at the end of February, and Pie Time next winter.

Posted 7 Nov 20217 Nov 2021Sun 7 Nov 2021 at 7:36pmShareCopy linkFacebookTwitterArticle share optionsShare this onFacebookTwitterLinkedInSend this byEmailMessengerCopy linkWhatsApp

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