On the back of record-breaking visitor numbers last year Orange's tourism explosion continued over Easter and with F.O.O.D Week fast-approaching and school holidays in full swing, that boom shows no signs of slowing down.
Philip Shaw cellar door manager Carine Miller says their Easter long weekend was the biggest they've seen.
Mrs Miller says since COVID-19 the cellar has been taking bookings and that record has allowed them to get a better indication of just how many people are coming through the door.
"It would have been the biggest long weekend we've experienced since opening," she said.
Traditionally this is the biggest time of the year we have, and last year it didn't happenPhilip Shaw cellar door manager Carine Miller on the bumper Easter long weekend in Orange
"We knew Easter would be large, and it leads into two weeks of school holidays and two weekends of F.O.O.D week; traditionally this is the biggest time of the year we have, and last year it didn't happen."
Mrs Miller says a lot of people through their door were from Sydney and Canberra, and many were return travellers looking to experience a new season in Orange.
She said a lot of those people have always wanted to come to Orange but hadn't yet, and the work Orange360 has done to promote the city is getting them over the line.
Orange360 general manager Caddie Marshall said the hospitality industry reaped the rewards over a bustling long weekend, in particular wineries welcomed tourists swarming to the region as they escaped the city.
"We were absolutely delighted to see and hear how busy the long weekend was across Orange, particularly in terms of forward bookings, and it extended to restaurants and venues that were open on Monday evening too," she said.
Granted that is, so far, largely anecdotal, but in coming straight from the horse's mouth it was an echoed sentiment. Cargo Road Wines owner James Sweetapple's mouth, in this case.
The beautiful thing is the word of mouth that comes with so many people visiting Orange.Cargo Road Wines owner James Sweetapple
"We had a really great, really busy weekend," he said.
"It certainly continued what has been a very busy period recently, we've basically been busy since the June long weekend last year. That's not just the wineries, it's the whole hospitality industry and [retail] as well.
"Most of the people who came over the weekend were from Sydney, probably around 90 per cent, and that's happening as more and more people discover Orange and what we have to offer here. Orange is supplying what they're demanding."
As one example, Mr Sweetapple said Cargo Road Wines' Sunset Dinner on Easter Sunday was sold out. The vineyard will host events next week amid the city's FOOD Week celebrations, which are set to be another major boost to the local economy.
"After about 30 years working for this Orange is getting what we deserve in terms of tourism. It's not been an overnight success, there's a been a lot of work put into building the tourism industry here," he said.
"The beautiful thing is the word of mouth that comes with so many people visiting Orange. They're coming here, loving it and then telling 10 friends, who come here and tell more friends."
Visitors coming from the city has become an undeniable trend, Ms Marshall said, with the popularity since coronavirus restrictions eased last June not restricted to Mr Sweetapple's vineyard either.
Those record-breaking visitor numbers came directly after those restrictions relaxed, during 2020's September quarter, with trends extending into the summer months as well.
"I think it's a benefit of the seasonal elements we have been pushing through Orange360, having four distinct seasons. People might be surprised how big an influence things like the autumn colours can have," she said.
"Anecdotally and from some of the surveys we've received, it seems like there is more demand in the family market as well, which is great. Farm stays too, are very popular, and we expect that to continue.
"The Sydney area is still our major market, but we're seeing bigger numbers of tourists from Canberra too which is quite new for us."
As the Orange region continues to boom though, the importance of forward booking has come to the fore.
A huge number of businesses extended their booking systems as COVID-19 rules and protocols became the norm, Mr Sweetapple explained there are significant benefits outside of that now though.
"The booking systems that have become normal are fantastic, they essentially let businesses know how busy they'll be. I think everyone is continuing to run with them, everything needs to be booked now whether it's events or cellar door tastings," he said.
That includes Cargo Road Wines' FOOD Week events next Tuesday and Thursday, when Mr Sweetapple will lead tours and tastings through the vineyard to provide insight into his methods, which have been perfected over more than two decades.
"We have 16 hectares of vineyard out here, so the beauty of an event like this is that we can virtually host an infinite number of people. People still need to book of course, but if 500 people want to come we can fit them in," he said.
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