For many local Hunter Valley businesses, the past few weeks have been the first signs of cash sales after surviving one of the most economically damaging years the Hunter Valley has ever faced.
Drought, bush fires and COVID-19 rocked the wine and tourism industry for the first six months of this year, with research by the Hunter Valley Wine & Tourism Association (HVWTA) indicating that 100% of the industry had reported losses in revenue, with close to half of all businesses suffering a complete loss of income.
With 80% of vendors such as cellar doors, restaurants and other tourist venues being forced to close for several weeks during the COVID lock down, the reopening of these venues at the beginning of June (long weekend) was a ray a light for the industry as many vendors made record sales for the year.
"Since the reopening of venues such as cellar doors and wineries at the beginning of June, many businesses within the Hunter Valley are finally starting to see some income and positive cash flow after the rough start to the year many businesses had," said CEO of HVWTA Amy Cooper.
"For some businesses, the initial June long weekend was reported to be their biggest sales week of 2020," she added. Hunter Valley Wine Country is valued at $557M per annum, employs 2,800 people, representing $104m in wages annually. At 192 years old, it is Australia's oldest wine region. The Hunter Valley is home to many of our most iconic wine brands.
Wine tourism represents 63% and wine making and viticulture 37%. Despite most businesses reopening, the HVWTA advise that there will be additional steps taken to ensure the Hunter Valley is still abiding by the government's COVID guidelines.
"We still need to ensure that not only our tourists and visitors are safe during these times but our vendors also stay COVID safe to ensure we do not risk the health of the region nor another business shutdown," said Ms Cooper.
"It's very exciting to be able to open back up and we welcome many locals to holiday here these school holidays as international and even interstate travel is limited," Ms Cooper added.
The HVWTA is a member based not-for-profit organisation, responsible for the sustainability of the wine tourism industry and destination marketing to attract visitors to the Hunter Valley. The history of the Association dates back over 173 years. However, the HVWTA currently receives no local, state or federal funding.
"The Hunter Valley Wine & Tourism Association is wholly a membership-funded organisation. Our businesses are just hanging on.
"They need the support of their industry Association now more than ever."