It was 1650 when Thomas Fuller wrote that "It is always darkest just before the Day dawneth" so I can be pretty confident that he wasn't referring to tourism in Dubbo, but the idiom is apt to describe what is currently happening with our visitation numbers.
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As we move forward in post-pandemic times, it can sometimes be easy to forget the fact that the pandemic's impact on our communities has been tough.
At the height of the pandemic with lockdowns at their most extreme, tourism was an industry that suffered immensely.
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So it is incredibly heartening to see the first rays of a new dawn breaking through in this industry. The latest data is in and it is official: The Dubbo Regional Council LGA is leading the way in the resurgence of regional tourism.
According to a recent report from the Tourism Transport Forum Australia (TTF), visitation to Central New South Wales is almost 11 per cent higher than pre-pandemic levels. What's more, we've become the most visited Local Government Area in Central NSW.
Our residents have always known Dubbo to be a wonderful place to live, work and play. It's a place we're proud to call home, and it's fantastic to see the rest of Australia catching on.
The report highlights something else that's striking; the rate of visitation by tourists under 30 years of age has increased by an impressive 11.7 per cent. This tells me that Dubbo is not just a destination for families but it is also capturing the hearts of younger generations.
Aside from the obvious economic benefits, it speaks to the broader appeal of our tourism offerings. With the primary headline act of the Taronga Western Plains Zoo we have many support acts. The Royal Flying Doctor Visitor Experience Centre; the Wellington Caves; the Old Dubbo Gaol and, maybe a bit of a left field entry, but our fantastic retail experience with data showing that shopping is a legitimate tourism activity.
I have long seen Dubbo as a bona fide destination, and many people are learning the same.
Our new Dubbo Region Visitor Guide is a brilliant tool to help continue this growth.
Featuring 107 local partners, it aims to give tourists more reasons than ever to visit our slice of paradise. With a range of tourism offerings on display, the guide caters to many different tastes. It also introduces the Great Western Plains Great Big Adventures, a collaboration that encourages visitors to extend their stays and explore our neighbouring areas.
After all, why have a good time when you could have a great one?
Tourism contributes $380 million to our local economy annually. That is not just a number; it represents jobs, opportunities, and a brighter future for all of us.
We're not just bouncing back, Dubbo; we're soaring to new heights.
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