Before the pandemic, tour guide Nicole Farrell had plied her trade internationally. In India and Morocco she had run "textile safaris" but then COVID-19 brought everything to a standstill.
Fortunately, as a resident of Orange - a town with its own booming trade for gourmet food and wine tourism -, she didn't need to look very hard to find a way to adapt her business for 2020. And from that, Country Food Trails was born.
"I seized the opportunity to start a business that would allow me to share my region with food and wine-loving visitors," she said.
Her new business model consists of small group tours in and around Orange that focus on the region's smorgasbord of offerings; including food, wine, history and local Indigenous culture.
"It's about offering the visitor to Orange more than just wine which we mainly focus on here," Ms Farrell explained.
The operator of Country Food Trails said the other important values at the centre of her local business are sustainability and reconnecting consumers with local producers.
It may have only been a short space of time since Ms Farrell pivoted to home-grown foodie tourism, but her unique business model appears to have already hit a sweet spot with tourists. Most recently, this has included visitors to Orange with visual impairments or low vision.
Among them is Cathy Egan from Sydney who travelled to the region accompanied by her guide-dog Leon this week with the tour company Cocky Guides.
"When I'm going on a tour or something like that, sightseeing is completely out... I can see blobs and colours but that's it. So I'm looking for other things in a tour - I'm looking through the eyes of other senses," she explained.
"I'm looking through my smell, taste and (the experience of) meeting people, learning and discovering history, and finding out about Indigenous (culture) which makes that area alive to me - bringing me a lovely memory back."
Ms Egan added that through both Cocky Guides - a sensory tour company that specialises in trips for people with visual impairments - and Country Food Trails she was able to fully experience and enjoy Orange through her other senses.
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