TOURISM attractions in the Port Macquarie-Hastings have welcomed the news from the NSW Government that Dine & Discover vouchers will be extended until June 2022.
This comes as businesses across the region reopen following a month-long lockdown.
Owner and director of Billabong Zoo Mark Stone said a large portion of visitors to the zoo before lockdown and over the past few days have used their vouchers.
However, he said he hopes the government will not only extend the vouchers but issue more to encourage locals to get out and support businesses.
"It's great news they have been extended however it would be good to see the government reissue more vouchers rather than just extending for those who have yet to redeem them," he said
"This would be highly beneficial to all businesses and the general public as this will inject further cashflow where it's needed most and encourage locals to explore and re-support businesses in their backyard.
"We only have to turn our minds back to what happened when the government first extended the voucher scheme, we had a huge influx of people redeeming them and it was the impact we needed at the time particularly after the floods and bushfires just prior, and still recovering from the previous year's shutdown from Covid."
Mr Stone said the Dine & Discover vouchers have helped businesses stay afloat during a challenging time.
"They've done a lot of good not just for the businesses that needed the support but also for the people that financially may not have been able to afford to visit local attractions or dine out," he said.
Owner of Ricardoes Tomatoes and Strawberries Anthony Sarks has been a driving force behind the push to extend the vouchers to help businesses who have been impacted by COVID-19 restrictions.
"So far, we've found the vouchers a tremendous boom at a time when trading conditions are so tough," he said.
"We applaud the extension until June 30 next year. It's a win for everyone, businesses get more support and locals can go out and experience what our region has to offer.
"There were even a few people over the weekend who used their vouchers when visiting the farm."
Many businesses reopened over the weekend as the Mid North Coast's month-long lockdown was lifted. Mr Stone said a number of businesses will be relying on local visitation over the coming weeks.
"We understand that people wanted to get their retail shopping done and go to the beach, so it was a little quieter than we hoped," he said.
"We're hoping that the weeks ahead with school holidays almost upon us, that numbers will increase.
"The soft re-opening also gave us an opportunity for the keepers and the animals to ease back into the swing of things. Which sat well with us, because like most businesses we all didn't get much lead time to prepare for reopening."
Mr Sarks said it's a similar story for his business.
"It was a very positive weekend for us, I think people are happy to be out and about again," he said.
"When speaking to visitors over the weekend, they said they will be supporting local which is a really good sign for all of our local businesses."
With lockdown lifted, Port Macquarie-Hastings residents are being encouraged to support local businesses to help them get back on their feet.
"At Ricardoes we can accept both the dine and the discover vouchers and it's an ideal time to utilise them in our peak strawberry season. Customers who've used their vouchers with us have been really enthusiastic at the win-win benefits, to them and to us as a local business and our staff," Mr Sarks said.
This is echoed by the team at Billabong Zoo.
"Basically, the business survival is dependent on local visitation, and the experience that we can give our local community," Mr Stone said.
"With this extra extension on the Dine & Discover voucher scheme we have no doubt it will help not just our business and other local businesses financially but also our local economy and greater area as a whole."
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