Aussie rural communities ready for fruitful return of tourists
Published: Dec 08, 2021 05:13 PM
It has been a tough year throughout the rural regions of the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) with COVID-19 abruptly halting the lucrative tourism industry but, finally, as Christmas approaches there are strong signs of a revival.

Young, the largest town in the state's scenic Hilltop Region, is located about 370 kilometers west of Sydney. The well-maintained town, which retains much of its 19th century charm with gracious public buildings, rustic country pub and sandstone churches, is also known as the cherry capital of Australia.

To celebrate its fruitful achievements, Young holds an annual festival crammed with family-friendly activities such as pie-eating contests and the crowning of the Cherry King and Queen. For overseas tourists and day-trippers from the bustling "big smoke" of Sydney, the National Cherry Festival offers a tasteful insight into rural Australia.

The event, traditionally held over the first weekend in December during the peak of the cherry season, was canceled last year and scaled down this year, but what it lacked in size was compensated by the enthusiasm of its organizers, market store holders and festival goers.

Among those keen to sell their colorful array of freshly picked cherries, local-made pies and jams was Stony Creek Orchards' Bridget Sell. Their products were a big hit and by the end of the weekend were near sold out. "We've had to downscale things this year, but the festival organizers have reinvented a lot of things. So along with the busking and the light festival, they have given us a fresh opportunity to be here," Sell told Xinhua.

Nestled in the Highlands district, about 250 kilometers from Young, is the picturesque village of Bowral where small businesses are also ready and willing to win over free-spending tourists.

Along the main street, adorned with Christmas decorations, boutique fashion stores jostle for trade alongside art galleries, gift shops and antique sellers.

Among all that action is Sweets and Treats, where shop assistant, Jade, told Xinhua that the business was beginning to prepare for an "onslaught" of tourists during the summer school holidays.

"During COVID it was definitely very different, not having all the Sydney people, Bowral relies on tourists from there," Jade said.

She said despite some fear that the new Omicron variant would prompt further restrictions, they were still planning for a best-case scenario.

"From a business standpoint, I think there is always that fear [that restrictions will be introduced] ... over the last two years there has always been that fear, that something's going to change. But I guess, we're not really thinking about that at the moment," she said.