The drought is hitting Central West farmers particularly hard. Photo: Mollie Gorman
Tourism in our regional towns and cities has never been more important than during the current drought, according to business and tourism leaders in the Central West.
The current dry and its effects on agriculture and farmers has been well-documented, but now there are concerns smaller towns and villages may feel the loss of local spending.
President of Orange Business Chamber Ash Brown said the drought was hurting the community.
“How tough is it when we’ve got to rely on the weather on top of being in a small business in any part of Australia. So we’re really feeling for the farmers, we know it affects business but it also affects directly a lot of people that we know.”
Orange360 General Manager Caddie Marshall said the squeeze was being felt across the region.
“If you look at retail businesses in Canowindra, if the farmers don’t have any money because they have to be feeding stock, we need to be inviting others to be coming out and spending money.”
Parts of the Central West and Tablelands have been declared ‘intense drought’. Source: https://edis.dpi.nsw.gov.au/
Both Mr Brown and Ms Marshall agreed that one way to help local communities feeling the pressure was to actively spend money in the area.
“And it’s not just in retail, it’s in our service stations, it’s in our grocery stores, in our B&Bs and farmstays, that’s what will make a difference and keep those little communities flourishing and growing as opposed to stagnating and going backwards,” suggested Ms Marshall.
Recent statistics show arrivals to regional areas and specifically central New South Wales are on the increase. From April 2017 to March 2018 there was a close to 25 per cent increase.
“It’s not everyone but there’s certainly a steady flow of people coming over the mountains having a look at what we’ve got here, and usually the first trip that they come out on would be tourism based, so they’ll come out, they’ll stay in a motel, they’ll have a look around, how much houses are, what schools are available, and what employment’s available,” Mr Brown said.
Graphic: Mollie Gorman
The increase comes largely from domestic visitors, although international arrivals are also buoying the numbers. Ms Marshall encouraged tourists to understand that while times are tough, coming and visiting the region was as important and worthwhile as ever.
“I actually think it is an opportunity. I think there is a spotlight on the bush and I think particularly the city folk are wanting to understand how they can help – invite them, we need to say you know what come and see for yourselves, come and visit us, that is the best thing you can do for us right now.”
Mr Brown agreed, saying tourism is integral to the region and it was vital the community also supported the industry.
“It’s slowly merged over the years, I would say over the last 3-5 years we’ve seen it really become a big difference in the town economically, it’s no longer just something that’s a secondary industry it’s. I believe it’s one of the most important growing industries in Orange and district at the moment.”
With the current drought predicted to continue well into the near future, tourism to the Central West is expected to increase in economic value for towns and villages suffering.
Above: Dry times hurt more than just farmers feeding hungry livestock. Photo: Mollie Gorman