Photo credit: Pip Farquharson

When Australians came out of lockdown and burst through border closures at the end of 2021, there was one thing particularly on their minds – travel.

And that was good news for Australia’s wine regions, which experienced a mini visitor boom in early 2022.

“We had days this winter that were on par with some of our key trading days in summer. It’s been fantastic,” says Tristan Jones, of Hobart’s Pooley Wines.

“Regional visitation from the capital cities went through the roof,” says Wine Tourism Australia’s Traci Ayris, of the period during and after lockdown. “Young people were trying wine tourism and getting hooked. Wineries who took that opportunity to develop and improve their cellar door and tourism experience are still reaping the benefits of that.”

Travellers are also spending more when they take domestic trips, with data from Tourism Research Australia showing that overnight spending is up 20 per cent (or $1.4bn) across the nation.

The highest increases in overnight spending have been in Queensland (up 59 per cent), Tasmania (up 54 per cent) and South Australia (up 54 per cent) when compared with 2019 levels.

But not all states are experiencing the boom. NSW tourists who initially began visiting local wine regions after lockdown are now more often opting to travel interstate or abroad. In NSW, the domestic spend has failed to rise significantly, with the increase in overnight spending only 3 per cent.

“Things have dropped off a bit,” says Tom Ward, from Swinging Bridge Wines in Orange, four hours west of Sydney.

“But Orange used the pandemic to cement itself as a premium-offering wine destination, and cellar doors are giving a much better service. Word of mouth has really got out.”

James Sweetapple, from Cargo Road Wines in Orange, says his cellar door had a big spike in visitors when Sydney came out of the long 2021 lockdown, but those numbers have since dried up.

“We were expecting to finally be able to sell some wine, but our customers went overseas, or to Queensland or Tasmania,” Sweetapple says.

“We want people to enjoy what the region has to offer, and really feel part of it. Bring the dog, sit by a dam and watch the kingfishers and the frogs.

“There’s a new craving for these simple, authentic experiences.”

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