Holiday at home: Plea to pump $16b into NSW tourism
A major campaign to kickstart NSW tourism will launch today as the Berejiklian government makes a play for the $16 billion the state's residents normally spend travelling overseas.
With coronavirus restrictions on visiting regional NSW easing tomorrow and international travel in limbo, the advertising blitz includes a new television commercial telling holiday-makers: "So you can't travel the world right now, so what."
NSW Tourism Minister Stuart Ayres said with the travel and hospitality industry hardest hit by COVID-19, those planning a trip should "forget that overseas escape" and explore their own backyard.
"NSW residents took almost two million international leisure trips last year worth $16.7 billion so there is a huge opportunity to entice our overseas holiday-makers to become NSW's next top travellers," Mr Ayres said.
"Not only has it never been a better time to travel around regional NSW, there's probably never been a more important time to holiday at home. At the end of the day, the single biggest beneficiary is getting people back into work."
The Now's The Time to Love NSW campaign will target NSW, Victoria and the ACT with plans to roll it out nationally when other states' border restrictions are lifted.
To run throughout June and July, the campaign - initially created to help drought and bushfire-devastated communities but now rebooted for coronavirus - includes new social media videos and a dedicated web page showing travellers how to make the most of the 213 days left in 2020.
In the past week, interest in NSW road trips has soared, with a 125 per cent increase in page views on the VisitNSW.com website. "I think it's fair to say that cabin fever has truly taken hold of residents," Mr Ayres said.
Despite fears of coronavirus spreading to regional towns, Mr Ayres said he believed tourists and businesses would act responsibly by maintaining social distancing and good hygiene.
"The state has managed the COVID health crisis incredibly well - we have very low infection rates and we have very strong community and contact tracing available," he said. "I think we're ready for this. There's never ever going to be a zero-risk environment so it's about how we manage that risk."
Mr Ayres said the reopening of state borders was also vital to "lift the economy out of the hole that it's in".
"We are the biggest supplier of interstate tourists to other states so my message to other states has been this is a rising tide lifts all boats scenario. But until that can happen, we want NSW residents to go on holiday in their own state," Mr Ayres said.
PLAN YOUR TRIP EARLY: LONG WEEKEND TRAVEL WARNING
Holiday-makers have been warned to adopt special COVID-19 travel plans ahead of the first long weekend after isolation.
Drivers should hit the road outside peak times with major traffic delays expected on highways next weekend.
Seats on regional trains and buses will also be limited due to social distancing requirements with travellers told to book early.
NSW Regional Transport and Roads Minister Paul Toole has urged motorists to stagger their trips and stay clear of the usual pinch points.
"Regional NSW is ready to welcome you with open arms and we're expecting the roads to be busy with people eager to get out and about after being in isolation," Mr Toole said.
"But for many motorists it's been a long time since they have travelled long distances or driven for more than essential travel."
Traffic delays are expected at Blackheath in the Blue Mountains, north of Newcastle at Hexham and along the south coast including Nowra, Milton, Ulladulla and Batemans Bay.
To avoid congestion, drivers heading out of Sydney should leave home after 8pm this Friday and before 7am on Saturday with the best times to return home on Monday before 9am, between 2pm and 4pm and after 7pm.
Mr Toole said train and bus services will be boosted.
"We're putting on additional carriages for the Melbourne and North XPT services which will be supplemented with coach services," he said.
Originally published as Holiday at home: Plea to pump $16b into NSW tourism