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COVID hits tourist season

Bourke Shire Council Corporate Services Manager, Leonie Brown, outside the Back O’Bourke Exhibition Centre. Photo TWH

What was shaping up to be Bourke and Brewarrina’s best tourism season in years is now unclear.

While Sydney residents hunker down to wait out the resurgence of COVID-19, the effects of the lockdown are impacting local economies across the outback.

At the Back O’Bourke Exhibition Centre alone, visitations have dropped from as high as 700 a week in June to just 82 through the gates last week.

Bourke Shire Council Corporate Services Manager, Leonie Brown, said the impact of the lockdown on Bourke’s economy was almost instant.

“Within a couple of days, the number of caravans in town just disappeared,” Mrs Brown said.

“A few weeks back, there were caravans everywhere and earlier in the season council had to open Renshaw Oval to accommodate the overflow.

“As soon as we saw the numbers dwindling, we closed that facility to allow other operators to benefit, but once the lockdown in Sydney was imposed the numbers just dropped and I know the caravan parks are very quiet at the moment,” she said.

The cancellation of the Louth Races, the postponement of the Mundi Mundi music festival near Broken Hill, and cancellation of the Lightning Ridge Opal Festival will also have an impact, with drastically fewer travellers heading west.

“We would have seen a flow-on effect from those events through Bourke,” Mrs Brown said.

“Those cancellations and postponements will have a significant effect on our tourism season.

“I feel very sorry for the people involved in those events.

“For the Louth community, the cancellation of this year’s race meeting will have a huge impact because that is such an important event for that community, and for Bourke’s local economy.

“We get a flow-on from the races so we will definitely feel the effects of that.

“Our businesses in town are feeling the impact as well. I know the Mulga Creek Hotel went from being extremely busy a few weeks ago and it is now very quiet. Diggers on the Darling is feeling it, as well as the Port O’Bourke Hotel and most other businesses in town.

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