NSW drought: Festivals across the region are helping to boost visitors 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, new data shows.

Currently, 100 per cent of the Cowra, Forbes, Parkes, Hilltops and Cootamundra-Gundagai local government areas have been declared in intense drought.

And, while farmers, businesses and the community are suffering, visitors are flocking to the region in greater numbers.

In the Central West for the 12 months to September 2019, 2.9 million domestic overnight visitors (up 4.5 per cent on the previous year) stayed 7.3 million nights (down 5.9 per cent) and spent $1.3 billion (up 19.8 per cent).

While in Destination NSW's Capital Country region, which includes Young and Cootamundra, there were 1.7 million domestic overnight visitors (up 11.1 per cent) who stayed 3.6 million nights (up 11.8 per cent) and they spent $627 million (up 30.2 per cent).

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

Central NSW Joint Organisation chair John Medcalf

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

"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 events such as the Parkes Elvis Festival, Canowindra Balloon Challenge, Forbes Good Friday Camel Races drew huge crowds.

He said he hoped Grenfell's Henry Lawson Festival of Arts, which has been put on hold this year, and the annual Forbes' Vanfest which is yet to announce dates for 2020 would return.

Tickets to the Canowindra International Balloon Challenge will be more affordable for families in 2020, organisers say.

Tickets to the Canowindra International Balloon Challenge will be more affordable for families in 2020, organisers say.

"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.

Forbes Shire Council mayor Phyllis Miller said visitors had increased because of a "really big push for our metropolitan people to come out here".

"I think that's one of the most successful things we've done in local government," she said.

"Tourism provides resilience to our commercial sectors of town and that's why we need tourism.

"We need people to come into our businesses so once the drought breaks they're still there."

Ms Miller said Forbes' Frost and Fire festival would return for its second year in 2020 following a very successful launch in 2019.

A dust storm to moving tributes and initiatives, the 2020 Parkes Elvis Festival will be one to remember.

A dust storm to moving tributes and initiatives, the 2020 Parkes Elvis Festival will be one to remember.

"We expected about 500 people and we got 3000, it was a great family night out," she said.

"Last year when we did it it was to give some relief to our community during the drought.

"They're [festivals] really important not only because of the economic benefit, but for the spirit of the community."

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