One Junee tourism leader says the region is “coming of age”, turning into the ultimate holiday destination.
Junee Licorice and Chocolate Factory owner Neil Druce said the venue’s ability to attract more than 1000 visitors every day of the Easter long weekend - a 20 per cent increase on last year - was a great sign for the future of the region’s tourism.
Mr Druce said Junee was on the cusp of becoming the perfect island holiday destination, but would only realised its potential if more venues opened during peak tourist times.
“I think people in the cities are starting to see the Riverina as the place to be,” he said
“But places are realising you can’t just shut up on Easter,” he said.
“People want to get out and do things … so you make it work.”
Mayor Neil Smith was quick to back Mr Druce’s claim, stating Junee businesses need to rise to the challenge of properly catering for both tourists and locals.
“I certainly think Junee is on people’s radar a lot more than it used to be,” Cr Smith said.
“But I’m a bit disappointed in some of the hospitality businesses.
“Some of them choose to close on weekends, and while I’m aware of the affect of penalty rates, those are some of the times for tourists to visit.
“It’s something we really need to find a way to sort out.”
“We need to have things of interest open and happening in our town to add to the experience for people.”
Most local businesses are closed on Sundays and public holidays, leaving the Licorice and Chocolate Factory as one of the only options during peak tourist times.
But Mr Druce has insisted it pays to open on Easter, with the factory’s numbers over the tourist-heavy long weekend continuing to increase year on year .
Two treasure hunts inspired delight from more than 500 children on Sunday morning alone.
Although the factory had a presence at the Royal Easter Show, Mr Druce said festivities were more alive in Junee.
“It’s dead up there,” he said.
“People in Sydney and Melbourne are realising the benefits of what we’ve got here.”