It’s a bumper season

Merimbula has been busier than usual say local businesses.Tourists bring huge boost for local economyIt may have been bumper to bumper down Market Street, but it’s also been a bumper holiday season for many local businesses reporting very healthy figures for the period. There have been reports of the season starting earlier than in the previous couple of years and also of demand extending throughout January.

Lyndall Whyman from Fisk & Nagle, Merimbula reported “unusually strong demand” for holiday accommodation in the eight to 10 days leading up to Christmas as well as the very high bookings over the Christmas/New Year week and into mid-January. Lyndall said she had a waiting and enquiry list of over 40 for that week, adding that there is also a lot of interest extending toward the end of the month.

Kevin Gerathy, from Merimbula Beach Cabins, agreed that visitors arrived earlier this year and attributed this, at least in part, to a promotional campaign run in September by Sapphire Coast Tourism and Merimbula Tourism which targeted regional Victoria, Sydney, Wollongong and Canberra.

He too reported strong bookings for the remainder of the month, as did Laurie O’Shea from Pambula Beach Discovery Holiday Park, where they are fielding many more enquiries than usual for vacancies at the park. Laurie also agreed with the consensus that the pre-Christmas demand was up on last year. Laurie said that he has been able to employ an extra 25 staff from the local area to cope with the increased workload over the season.

Manager of the Merimbula Visitor Information centre, Kristie Tsakiris said while visitors through the door in early December were slower than on previous years, from December 22 they began to rise. Ms Tsakiris said the centre has been making more effective use of online tools and had streamlined the information and accommodation booking services.

Retailers have also noticed the increase in visitor numbers with Woolworths Tura Beach manager, Paul Harrison, reporting an eight per cent improvement on last year’s trading figures, adding that he had needed to put on extra staff to cope with the demand.

And if you’ve tried to get a seat at your favourite cafe around town, you may have had to wait a while. Poppy’s cafe owner, Louise Brand, said trade was up by around 20 per cent on the previous year.

“Absolutely flat out!” is how Louise described the past four weeks at the popular cafe.

Amanda Dwyer, a manager at Merimbula McDonald’s said they are a little up on last year, taking into account that since a new store opened in Bega last Easter, their trading figures have been lower all year.

Merimbula Marina’s Jessica Millar said that visitor numbers and fishing have both been very good lately, coinciding with some great weather which has kept patrons happy. Jessica reported that on Monday, January 5, the smallest boy on the morning’s fishing trip caught the biggest fish, a 61cm snapper.

Merimbula Chamber of Commerce president, Donella Roberts said the increased business around town was great for local jobs.

“With another strong season employers will be more confident about putting on extra staff,” she said.

Ms Roberts said she was also very pleased with the enthusiastic take up by businesses and shoppers alike for the Why Leave Town Merimbula gift cards. Ms Roberts said the promotion had exceeded their expectations with more than $20,000 loaded onto cards purchased in the two weeks before Christmas.

“That is money that will stay in the local economy,” she said.

The gift cards are available year-round from over 80 local businesses.

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