JUST as the local tourism industry was on the brink of pandemic recovery, it suffered another heavy blow, with a series of cancellations just weeks into the busiest time of the year.
Local trailer parks, hotels and motels would normally be reserved for January’s Tamworth Country Music Festival, but the hesitation around the latest COVID-19 variant means some travelers are hitting the pause button.
City Lights Caravan Park owner Deborah Norris said visitors canceled reservations last month, but in the past few days the phones have gone silent.
“They panicked at first, but now I think they’re waiting for a decision, or if the borders will be closed,” she said.
“I really think people are waiting, they are waiting to see how things go with this new variant.
“When I ask people why they cancel, some of them say they are not vaccinated – well the answer is to go get vaccinated if you want to travel.”
Ms Norris said that at this time of year the park would normally be full before the festival, but older visitors to the city fear contracting the infection and would rather wait until 2023.
“Some of them, because they’ve been coming for so long, just transfer their money,” she said.
“I can’t refund everyone the money, COVID has been here now in its third year and people can’t use it as an excuse anymore.”
At Tamworth’s Austin Tourist Park there have also been a few cancellations, but capacity is still close before the festival. All the motorized pitches have been reserved for the park, while very few cabins remain available.
Meanwhile, Paradise Tourist Park has suffered cancellations and the Best Western Sanctuary Inn in Tamworth has reported buses full of people pulling out.
It comes after a wave of venues pulled the pin from their festival events, including the Tamworth Services Club, the Academy of Country Music and, most recently, the country music festival held at the Barraba RSL Club.
Despite the concerns, many locals like Ms Norris understand how important the festival is to the local community and many are supporting it.