Give the Blue Mountains a break
CONTRIBUTINGeditor Judith Elen has just been up to the NSW Blue Mountains to see how tourism is faring after the recent bushfires, the most devastating in decades. The most popular spots of Leura, Wentworth Falls and Katoomba were unaffected but visitor numbers have dipped dramatically this month.
In tourism terms, this immediate lull is a typical case of wait-and-see, a period in which travellers assess the situation, exercise caution and, let’s face it, wait just a tiny while for the comeback deals. I don’t feel there’s anything wrong in taking advantage of such dire circumstances — better to give local operators a boost, kick in some revenue and help the rebuilding process than stay away when visitors are needed most.
Vulture tourism is the industry’s term for such postdisaster strikes by what some would call opportunistic holiday-makers. We’ve seen it after the Bali bombings, the tsunamis in Sri Lanka, Thailand and Japan, the Queensland floods and, no doubt, the tragic, typhoonstruck Philippines will be the next destination on sale. Watch for the bargains — airlines, operators and hoteliers need to get, as they say, bums on seats and in beds or the industry collapses.
So if you’re up for it, and don’t mind being associated with a bird of prey, early vultures get the best deals. In terms of the Blue Mountains, I hope the recovery is rapid and that the word gets out about villages, scenic attractions and national parks that are waiting for us.
If you’re not a Sydneysider, you might not understand all this fascination with the Blue Mountains. It was the city’s first real holiday destination that wasn’t just the beach; honeymooners headed there in the late 1940s and into the 50s to stay at English-style boarding houses with log fires and Tudor beams and take the air and marvel at blue-hazed valleys and generally stroll about with their heads in the clouds. The souvenir kiosks used to sell the crisp mountain air in cans — Mother kept just such a thing on the mantelpiece to open in case she got one of her ‘‘heads’’ and the daily intake of Vincents powder wasn’t up to it, but I never saw her open the can. It looked oddly attractive next to our snowdome shaker of the Three Sisters.
My parents loved Katoomba as passionately as if it were somewhere altogether foreign, like a colonial hillstation. The Blue Mountains was the ultimate Sunday road trip for us in the late 60s and always involved a stop at Bilpin to buy apples, which tasted somehow sweeter than they did on the plains, and afternoon tea at a faded Katoomba hotel with waitresses in frilled pinafores and lashings of cream on the scones.
Mother would even break her golden rules about the necessity of fine bone china and silver teaspoons and we’d sip from big country cups and lick strawberry jam from our fingers. Dad drove like Mr Magoo from the telly cartoons so it would be a long day, all up, and we’d sing as we went and Mother would have to loosen her stays. Do read Judith’s piece (Page 4) and I hope it inspires you — let’s all give the Blue Mountains a break.