We’re getting behind Ride High Country’s #RollOnBack campaign and encouraging bike riders to book a trip to one of your favourite riding locations now, when they need us the most.
As the bushfire threat recedes across most of the country, tourist towns like Bright and many others across North East Victoria are facing the new financial threat of millions lost in vital tourism dollars.
Bright is a bike riding mecca, warmly welcoming thousands of riders every year to enjoy the rolling hills, challenging climbs and serene atmosphere of the Alpine region (not to mention the breweries and cafes!).
Now, the town where you would normally struggle to get a car park on a January long-weekend is facing the reality of empty pubs, unoccupied caravan parks and unsettling quiet streets.
Tourism North East estimates a loss of around $200 million from the March 2020 quarter.
Bright Brewery manager Rupert Shaw told the ABC last week that he “would usually be expecting 18,000 people [this time of year] and we’ve had less than 100”. He’s been forced to lay off 20 casual workers as a result.
We caught up with Glen Janetzki from Bicycle Network, who spent the long-weekend rolling-on-back to Bright, for a chat about his experience.
What’s it like?
It was definitely much quieter than it normally is at this time of year. There are still a few shops closed, but the great majority have now reopened and were incredibly warm and welcoming. The locals are doing a tremendous job of supporting each other.
How was the riding?
I must admit I was a bit apprehensive about what the air quality was going to be like, but we were pleasantly surprised. The week we arrived they had just had some good rainfall and air quality was of no concern. The roads were fantastic with not much car traffic and it made for great riding conditions.
Where any areas closed off?
At the time we were there (Jan 21-27) Mt Buffalo was still closed and the back of Falls was closed along with the road past Dinner Plains. There was still a tremendous amount of ride options with both sides of Tawonga, Hotham and Falls along with Rosewhite Gap all open giving you plenty of different choices.
Note: Since then, the road between Dinner Plain and Omeo has reopened. It’s also worth mentioning that all seven mountain bike parks in the region are open for business, as well as plenty of brilliant gravel cycling around Bright and Beechworth.
How are the locals holding up?
They are remarkably positive. It was amazing the reception you were given in each shop or café, all so welcoming. A few of the local restaurants we visited have made a point of stocking locally sourced products and local wines to make sure everyone if supporting each other through the tough times. It was quite inspiring to be around.
What would be your advice for those considering a trip?
If you’ve got the chance, get up there now and support this amazing community. If you’ve been thinking about buying some new cycling kit or getting some spare tubes or something, hold off and source it from one of the local bike shops up there (it's the same price, if not cheaper!). Treat yourself to a couple of meals at one or two of the amazing restaurants up there and enjoy the local coffee and beer, you won’t be disappointed!
Photos from Glen's trip to an eerily quiet Bright:
The High Country is such a special place and the positivity and resilience of the locals during this time is inspiring. The whole North East desperately needs support – not just Bright – make sure you explore the region by doing some day trips to ride in towns like Beechworth. Plus, you know that every dollar you spend while you are there is directly contributing to the recovery of the local economy. There is still plenty of premium cycling available, and whether you’re a roadie, a mountain biker or something in between there’s definitely something for you!
Of course, Bright is not the only town doing it tough as a result of the bushfire crisis. Tourist towns right around the country – even those that were not directly impacted by the fires – are experiencing record low summer earnings.
There’s been a number of brilliant campaigns launched to help provide information and spread the word about the importance of holidaying at home to support these communities, including:
HIGH COUNTRY COMEBACK is a free event happening this weekend (Feb 2) that showcases food, wine, experience, goodies and entertainment on offer in North East Victoria.
EMPTY ESKIES is a social media movement encouraging Australians to take #emptyeskies (and full wallets) on your holiday, filling up on local produce to support regional economies.
HOLIDAY HERE THIS YEAR is a Tourism Australia initiative with heaps of information and advice for supporting local communities impacted by the bushfires.
BUY FROM THE BUSH showcases some of the beautiful things crafted in Australia's struggling rural communities, and connects bush businesses with city customers. Similarly their sister account @stayinthebush promotes rural accommodation providers.
ROADTRIP FOR GOOD is a website that highlights fire-affected areas that are open and ready to welcome visitors once again, including a great interactive map listing areas and specific businesses that need our support.
SPEND WITH THEM aims to rebuild local economies by providing a platform for businesses impacted by bushfires to advertise their products online.