By now we are all aware of the staggering damage the bushfire crisis has caused across the country. Just last week, Hunter Valley institution Tyrrell’s announced it had lost 80 per cent of its crops to smoke taint.
But further to the agricultural loss many of our wine regions are coming to terms with, these areas have also taken a staggering hit with a loss in tourism and unless action is taken to help these regions out, the economic situation in these areas is likely to worsen.
A survey released by the Hunter Valley Wine & Tourism Association (HVWTA) has revealed that the Hunter Valley has suffered a $42 million loss in tourism over the last three months.
Christina Tulloch, President, HVWTA, says that the $42 million figure is likely to increase, and its effects will be felt nationally.
“On average, the Hunter Valley economy is losing close to $15 million a month in tourism revenue. This is an alarming trend, forecasted to continue into June,” she says.
“As the second biggest tourism destination in NSW outside of Sydney, the issues in the Hunter will be felt at a national level.”
The Hunter Valley has been hit with the triple threats of fire, drought and now smoke taint, which has resulted in unprecedented crop losses. The agricultural loss is compounding the effects of reduced visitation and without appropriate action, the $42 million figure is likely to increase.
“Business and tourism operators in the Hunter were already under financial pressure associated with a protracted drought, and this survey reveals a steep 25 per cent reduction in visitation numbers as a result of the bushfires. They are hurting, and the Hunter Valley economy is suffering alongside them,” says Tulloch.
Dominic Roche, Executive Chairman of Roche Group, owners of Hunter Valley Gardens, says that there has been a notable reduction in visitation over the past three months.
“At this time of year Hunter Valley Gardens hosts our flagship Christmas Lights Spectacular event. The event has been running for 12 years and is a key driver for local tourism, welcoming over 120,000 people to the region during November to January. However, with the recent fire events we have seen visitation drop by over 20 per cent compared to previous years,” he said.
Hunter Valley operators are looking to their local, regional and state bodies for assistance with recovery. The survey sample was extensive and one of the overwhelming responses received was for region-wide marketing support and associated initiatives.
“The Hunter Valley is Australia’s oldest wine region at 192 years and with a visitor economy worth over $500 million a year, it is an iconic and economically significant tourism asset that needs protection,” says Tulloch.