Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism (BMLOT) is pleased with the State Government announcement today of a $2 million summer campaign for regional NSW highlighting tourism businesses which have remained physically untouched yet financially affected by the recent bushfires.
BMLOT chairman Randall Walker also welcomed Premier Barry O’Farrell’s encouraging of visitors to the Blue Mountains by train.
For this weekend, the two hop-on/hop-off bus operators in the area, Blue Mountains Explorer Bus and Blue Mountains Trolley Tours, have both generously offered 50% of fares to be donated to the Blue Mountains Mayoral Relief Fund.
“I am very proud to say that tourism operators throughout the region willingly complied with the responsible advice from the Rural Fire Service,’’ he said.
“The tourism industry, which is one of the major employers in our region, predominantly consists of small to medium sized businesses. That they rely on a constant stream of visitors goes without saying.
“However, that constant stream was interrupted suddenly and by up to several days for some operators this week and many of them are suffering from significant losses in income, including the large businesses in the region which employ a considerable amount of local people.’’
Mr Walker said regional tourism losses were up to $1.5 million a day, compounded to more than $2 million a day with cancellations from “over-reacting visitors for a month into the future and, inexplicably, a few around Christmas’’.
“We have major operators that are down $300,000 to $1 million in revenue and, of the same percentage impact, small businesses that are down critical amounts of $10,000 to $20,000. I know one operator that has to refund $20,000 for a wedding and another that has facilitated more than 100 accommodation cancellations.
“Tourism Minister George Souris and Destination NSW chief executive officer Sandra Chipchase had pledged support early during the fire situation. It is great to now have a tangible campaign confirmed.’’
BMLOT had made representations to state and federal members across the region, and Blue Mountains State MP Roza Sage then approached key state cabinet ministers including Treasurer Mike Baird, Tourism Minister George Souris and Small Business Minister Katrina Hodgkinson.
Mr Walker stressed that:
- The railway line and Great Western Hwy to the upper Blue Mountains remain open
- Major attractions such as Scenic World and Jenolan Caves remain open
- Villages of Wentworth Falls, Leura, Katoomba, Medlow Bath, Blackheath, Oberon, the township of Lithgow and Emirates Wolgan Valley are all open to welcome visitors
- Major lookouts on the southern side of the escarpment such as Echo Point are open
- Visitor Information Centres are open
- Many large tracts of bush/parks/reserves, especially on the southern side are untouched by fire
- cafes, restaurants, shops, hotels and resorts continue to trade
The tourism and hospitality industry is of critical importance to the Blue Mountains, Lithgow and Oberon regional economy, with 4 million visitors a year according to National Parks & Wildlife Service figures, visitor expenditure $550 million a year and more than 5100 full-time equivalent positions.