With the borders shut, dreams of flying off to Paris or New York in the near future have been dashed. But local businesses say the good news is there are plenty of gems in this very region that are worth the visit.
Operators from Wagga to the Snowy Valleys and beyond are benefitting from a shift to inland tourism as residents plan their holidays.
Richie Robinson, general manager at Destination Riverina Murray, said the leisure tourism in regional areas had seen a strong rebound.
"People are looking for new experiences that provide a safe environment, and regional areas have been able to offer this combination," he said.
"Places like Wagga are seen as safe, and we offer a new and interesting range of visitor experiences that many people have not thought to explore before."
Mr Robinson said not being able to travel overseas affords opportunities for tourists and operators. He added there is a relatively captive audience that is looking for something to do.
"Regional tourism is well placed to do well while international travel isn't an option and we think the Riverina Murray region will be able to capitalise on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," he said.
"Operators can work with DRM and DNSW to make sure they update listings and get involved in a whole-of-state activity such as the Love NSW campaign."
With the shift, more businesses are opening up in the regions such as Three Blue Ducks. The owners are trading the surf for turf with its new eatery at the Nimbo Fork Lodge at the base of the Snowy Mountains.
Fruit and vegetables will come from the on-site garden, while other produce and ingredients will be sourced from the nearby Riverina.
Paul Dewhurst, operations manager, said the new extension came about after a collaboration with the Wagga business duo from White Top Venues who owns Nimbo Fork Lodge.
After working together for a wedding, they started to discuss the option of a more permanent partnership.
"One of the boys was into hunting and fishing, and visited the area, and said 'we have to do this'," Mr Dewhurst said.
"We went down and fell in love with where it is. The scenery is beautiful, the locals are down to earth, and the produce is amazing.
"We sent one of our chefs and three staff down there, and we have done a few trips back and are opening on November 25."
Mr Dewhurst said the way he sees the shift in tourism is not so much from coastal to inland, but rather a change from overseas to interstate travel.
He added that people are starting to discover that there is so much on offer here, and everywhere apart from the major cities seems to be booming with tourists.
"I did not know anything about this area, but it is beautiful and more and more people are finding out about this region," Mr Dewhurst said.
Josh and Sophie Walsh, owners of White Top Venues and Nimbo Fork Lodge, have been building a business that aims to bring events and tourists to regional NSW.
The Wagga duo took over the lodge about two years ago.
"We have been working with Destination NSW to build the profile of the region," Mr Walsh said.
"Hence, the venture with the Three Blue Ducks is very exciting for the Snowy Valleys and the Riverina."
Mr Walsh said if the pandemic had taught Australia anything, it was to support locals.
This, he added, has seen a drive for residents to explore their own backyard or make the decision to check out somewhere new to them.
"I think they're pleasantly surprised and that's evident in the repeat clientele coming to Nimbo, for instance," he said.
"I think COVID has been a good thing for the intrastate [tourism] and the 'love your local' attitude, which has been just fantastic.
"Sometimes I am gobsmacked that people around here don't know about us, and we are only an hour and 15 minutes away, so I think having the Three Blue Ducks will really help showcase this region."
Jenni Riethmuller, the owner of Belisi, has spent the last few years upgrading her equestrian centre to include wellness and therapy programs and a farmstay built of shipping containers.
When restrictions starting easing, but access to Victoria and Queensland was still cut off, Ms Riethmuller said people started shifting their gaze to inland NSW.
"It has been hugely beneficial for us," she said.
"We are getting are a lot more enquiries, and I think we are booked out until May next year.
"It's great for the whole of the region with guests staying here and spending money locally."
Ms Riethmuller said a standout feature of the Riverina, was the way businesses work together to provide unique opportunities for tourists.
"It's a big part of what we do, and supporting each other is crucial," she said.
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"We collaborate a lot with The Wild Vine down the road. We also send out a list just before our guests arrive of the suggested attractions in the region and food venues.
"I still send it to locals because some of them don't realise that we have an amazing strawberry farm, wineries and other amazing attractions."
David Ferguson and his partner returned to Gundagai about eight years ago to help run the family farm. After a while, they decided to start the Kimo Estate to maximise the use of the property.
Now, it's an accommodation and wedding venue located on a working 7000-acre farm. While they have seen a push in tourism from coastal and metro to inland, Mr Ferguson said a large part of that has to do with the use of social media.
"I think there was an interest prior to COVID in heading inland, but I think it has been amplified now," he said.
"There was a pretty big push from Destination NSW beforehand, and we used social media to really expand our audience.
"We used COVID as well as a chance to push out our Instagram. Social media has been our biggest focus for the last four years."
Mr Ferguson said billions of dollars are spent overseas by Australians every year, and if rural and regional Australia could pick up even just 30 per cent of that it would make a massive difference.
"It's an exciting time," he said.
Recently, the NSW Government announced the launch of a new campaign to invite interstate residents to cross the border and enjoy a "great escape" now that travel restrictions are easing.
Stuart Ayres, Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney, said now that restrictions are being eased, we're all hungry for freedom, to escape what's been a challenging year.
"There's no better time to explore the incredible coast, countryside and outback of NSW," he said. "Come on over - there's so much to see and do in NSW."