DestinationsWith more travellers seeking connection with nature, some Australian regions are seeing their highest-ever occupancy.

Basking in nature's glory is top wellness travel trend

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Growing demand for parks has also brought renewed attention on visitor dispersal.
Growing demand for parks has also brought renewed attention on visitor dispersal.

As appetite for nature-based wellness travel grows in tandem with pandemic anxieties, some Australian regions outside the urban sprawl have already started to witness the trappings of a visitor boom.

The latest Global Wellness Institute survey of consumer attitudes from May-July this year revealed that a whopping 87% of respondents see themselves travelling in the next 12 months, of whom 76% intend to include wellness elements. Top on the list of wellness travel expectations, by a wide margin, is to be in nature (72%). The report polled 2,000 respondents from around the world, with 42% being Australian.

The tourism outlook in Australia has been a mixed bag. The country is expected to remain closed to international travellers until at least next year, and some interstate travel restrictions are in place. Australia had begun easing Covid restrictions from June 1, before a second wave of infections brought Victoria back under lockdown.

Meanwhile, the Mudgee Region - some 3.5 hours northwest of Sydney - is “enjoying an extraordinarily strong tourism boost”, Cara George, CEO of Mudgee Region Tourism said on the sidelines of last week's Wellness Travel Opportunities in a Changing World virtual event.

Speaking to Travel Weekly Asia, she shared that the Mudgee Region experienced overnight visitation growth of 13% YOY in June, 28% in July, and 18% in August. “We also recorded our highest ever average occupancy for the region in July at 78%.”

“When travel restrictions were lifted on 1 June, Mudgee Region Tourism quickly launched its rebound campaign Feel the Love in the Mudgee Region. The campaign included a series of video content, a targeted social media plan, media outreach strategy and print magazine distribution,” she explained.

Mudgee is ideally positioned for road trips given its proximity to the gateway city of Sydney.
Mudgee is ideally positioned for road trips given its proximity to the gateway city of Sydney.

While in lockdown, Mudgee Region Tourism had also kept in contact with its partnership base of some 340 local tourism operators as part of its “Ready for rebound” campaign. It also ran a Feel the Love Virtually campaign to keep the destination top of mind for domestic travellers.

“Local businesses are thriving and new businesses are coming to town. We are confident the domestic market will continue to support regional areas into the future, with 94% of new visitors to our region (up 35% on same time last year) indicating they will return within 12 months,” George remarked.

Mudgee is ideally positioned for road trips given its proximity to the gateway city of Sydney. Calling on others to tap into similar opportunities, she said: “Regional destinations: it's our time to shine! Nostalgia around the quintessential Aussie road trip is huge right now.”

Also seeing increased footfall are the parks of New South Wales. Over the long weekend following the re-opening of accommodation of June 1, demand for New South Wales national parks were three times that of regular peak season volumes, according to Julie Bishop, director of the Visitor Experience Branch at NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service. “We faced the massive task of ensuring that all park accommodations (from homesteads to campgrounds) were 100% bookable on our online system.”

The year-on-year increase in traffic to NSW parks has persisted over the last few months.

Such growing demand for parks has also brought renewed attention on visitor dispersal, promising to benefit communities in hitherto overlooked parks in NSW.

“NSW’s 20 highly visited parks make up 60 percent of visitation. The pressure on parks in populous areas has been extraordinary. We are facing problems with traffic and use of facilities.”

To spread traffic to lesser visited parks, the NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service is stepping up on messaging efforts via the media. “We are getting the word out that spending time in nature is important for wellness, but don’t choose only the busy parks”.

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