ESTABLISHING an annual garden festival and shifting the focus of Slow Summer and Frost Fest to tourists instead of locals are just two ways Orange could broaden its appeal to visitors, according to Orange Highland Wines and Gardens owner Ross Harrison.
Orange City Council released a plan outlining the 10-year strategy to boost tourism in Orange earlier this month.
The author said wine and food were the main things bringing visitors to the city, but Mr Harrison believes it is hard to quantify when the health industry and friends and families in the area also drive people Orange’s way.
“We really haven’t arrived as a wine region but we’re on the way,” he said.
“There’s not a lot of tourism product in Orange. If you don’t like wine what do you do?”
The strategic plan described the Orange wine region as “youthful” but Mr Harrison said he believed it was the very thing that made the region popular.
“When you go to the Hunter Valley you go into the large cellar doors and it’s really like a shop ... they have no real knowledge of growing grapes or making wine,” he said.
“[In Orange] you meet the characters around the place that own the cellar door and the winemakers.”
While Cook Park, Lake Canobolas and Mount Canobolas are all popular with tourists, Mr Harrison said he did not believe Orange was well-known for any one attraction.
“We’re still searching for that identity ... and you don’t get that with any one idea,” he said.
“Orange will be on the wine map of NSW in five to 10 years’ time and that will have a really great impact on tourism.”
Mr Harrison said plans for an annual garden festival showcasing the colours of Orange in November were still in their early stages but he said it could be one concept to boost tourism.
He said the existing annual festivals Slow Summer and Frost Fest, currently regarded as community events, should be overhauled and promoted further afield to appeal to tourists.
He also believes Orange should capitalise on its cool winters with a Christmas in July concept.
Mr Harrison welcomed the recent announcement of Brindabella Airlines starting a service alongside Regional Express (Rex) at the Orange Airport but was uncertain whether it would have a significant impact on tourist numbers.
He hopes package tours could be established to bring more visitors to Orange via air or rail.