POKOLBIN is the top town in NSW.
That's the opinion of travel website Wotif, which ranked the Hunter Valley destination at number two in its Aussie Town of the Year awards. Only Cairns ranked higher.
Tulloch Wines chief executive and the president of the Hunter Valley Wine and Tourism Association, Christina Tulloch, said it was a fantastic achievement for the vineyard community.
"It has been a pretty tough 12 months; we had the protracted drought and then the bushfires which led to losing 80 per cent of our crops across the Hunter Valley due to smoke tainting," she said
"And then the pandemic hit and we all had to close our doors during lockdown."
Wotif's annual Aussie tourism awards recognise some of the country's best destinations, encouraging Australians to explore and support local tourism. The winners are picked based on their accommodation quality, affordability and traveller satisfaction.
Cessnock mayor Bob Pynsent said he was proud of the way the Hunter had recovered from tough times.
"The recovery in the Hunter has been incredible. During the lockdown, businesses here were in dire straits," Cr Pynsent said.
Cr Pynsent said the push towards domestic travel had dramatically boosted the number of visitors to the Hunter Valley.
"Where we'd only experience the full house numbers of roughly 20,000 people during a concert weekend, we were suddenly experiencing that every weekend," he said.
Not only did the Hunter witness a surge of visitors over the weekends, people were choosing to visit more frequently during the week and staying for longer periods of time.
"This really turned a lot of businesses around," Mr Pynsent said.
Ms Tulloch said many of these visitors were from Sydney and they were pleasantly surprised to see what a "world class tourism destination the Hunter Valley is".
"We have so much to offer, it's not just wine," she said.
"There are amazing resorts, boutiques, accommodation, world class, fine dining restaurants, as well as experiences such as hot air ballooning.
"I think it's a wonderful opportunity for people to rediscover their own backyard."
Tulloch is hopeful that once borders across Australia reopen, Pokolbin will be a destination for many interstate travellers.
Wotif managing director, Daniel Finch said it was a privilege to announce the winners.
"It's time to recognise the people who continue to work tirelessly and adapt to new and ongoing restrictions."
2021's top 10:
- Cairns, QLD
- Pokolbin, NSW
- Apollo Bay, VIC
- Mudgee, NSW
- Lakes Entrance, VIC
- McLarenVale, SA
- Hervey Bay, QLD
- Exmouth, WA
- Port Macquarie, NSW
- The Entrance, NSW
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