More needs to be done to unlock the Riverina’s potential as a major tourism destination over the Easter long weekend, leading tourism and business figures claim.
While the region put on a number of events, including Stone the Crows in Wagga and La Festa in Griffith on Saturday, that drew sizeable crowds, potential exists to make the Riverina a must-visit destination over the four-day break in coming years.
Riverina Regional Tourism director Neil Druce, owner of the Junee Licorice Factory, believes the key is ensuring cafes, pubs and restaurants trade right across the long weekend.
“(Easter) is huge and people are running around the Riverina looking for things to do," he said. “It’s ridiculous more things aren’t open to take advantage.”
The Licorice Factory opened all four days over the weekend – one of the few businesses in the region to do so – and Mr Druce estimates 1000 people came through the doors on Easter Sunday alone.
Mr Druce said a new major festival could be a solution – but suggested an event of a smaller scope, if well supported by the business community, could do the trick as well.
“If you just open up on the long weekend and do special meals, that’s what people want,” he said.
“They want to be able to drive through, see a sign and call in.”
The aim for the Riverina should be to draw on some of the bumper tourist crowds seen just over the Victorian border, according to Mr Druce.
“The bigger we make the Riverina, the more people we snag to drive across the border,” he said.
A push for a major festival to help develop the Riverina as a signature Easter destination has also been backed by Wagga Business Chamber president James Howell.
Mr Howell, however, said any potential event would need to be marketed properly to ensure it was a success.
“We had the archery comp over the weekend (in Wagga) over the weekend but nobody had much of an awareness of it being on,” he said.
“We need to make sure the events being held are getting publicity and getting backed up by businesses in town providing services.”
Mr Howell didn’t agree with the view that the success of the Riverina as a tourism destination over Easter hinged on businesses trading across the weekend.
Instead, a co-ordinated approach between business and other community stakeholders is needed to maximise the return from major events.
“It takes a committed focus between council, businesses and different groups all coming together to promote Wagga,” Mr Howell said.
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