HOSPITALITY businesses are bracing for an influx of visitors to Wagga for the city's most anticipated social event of the year.
The Wagga Gold Cup carnival, to be held on Thursday and Friday, attracted a record-breaking 10,000 punters to the Murrumbidgee Turf Club in 2021.
That number is expected to be matched this year, just two years removed from a 2020 event held without crowds due to COVID restrictions.
MTC CEO Jason Ferrario said the 10,000 limit is ideal for the Murrumbidgee Turf Club to ensure crowd safety and crowd comfort on race days.
"We've got no doubt that, judging by the early influx of hospitality bookings which sold out five weeks ago, people are very excited about coming back to the Wagga Gold Cup without the restrictions of COVID," he said.
Mr Ferrario said this year's event is particularly attractive to visiting stables. "Number one is for city-based trainers that are looking for dry tracks," he said.
"And number two, our Gold Cup is now officially a qualifying event for The Big Dance, which will be held on the first Tuesday in November [at Randwick] for $2 million."
More than just a day for racing enthusiasts or fans of Fashions on the Field, Mr Ferrario understands the importance of the carnival for the local economy.
"It's huge for the city," he said. "It is so beneficial to those that are in accommodation and hospitality.
"Without a doubt, it's great for our race club but it's also great for the city of Wagga."
MTC-organised coaches will transport visitors from the races into the city's CBD.
Townhouse Hotel Wagga general manager Andrew Buik agreed the event is a big boost for local hospitality.
"It's a peak trading week for the town," he said.
The Townhouse's 46 rooms are almost entirely booked, with only a couple of available suites due to COVID-related cancellations.
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"Specifically for the races, we have a lot of regular guests that book year-to-year," Mr Buik said.
"So, they check out last year and say, 'see you next year'."
This year has also seen the visiting Canberra Raiders game and the Gold Cup event weeks separated, spreading out the flow of visitors to the area.
"I think we'd all rather have high, consistent trade than crazy peaks," Mr Buik said.
The Hotel Mercure Wagga's 86 rooms are fully booked on event nights, many for up to six or seven months.
As are the 30 rooms at Junee's Crossing Motel, a 30-minute drive from the turf club.
As of the time of publication, some rooms remain available to book at the International Hotel Wagga, with prices for Friday night surging to more than three times the usual rate.
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