Thu, 27 Jan 2022

© Provided by Xinhua

Located about 370 km west of Sydney, Young, the cherry capital of Australia, sees the return of tourists as Christmas approaches.

SYDNEY, Dec. 8 (Xinhua) -- It has been a tough year throughout the rural regions of the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) with COVID-19 abruptly halting the lucrative tourism industry but, finally, as Christmas approaches there are strong signs of a revival.

Young, the largest town in the state's scenic Hilltop Region, is located about 370 km west of Sydney. The well-maintained town, which retains much of its 19th century charm with gracious public buildings, rustic country pub and sandstone churches, is also known as the cherry capital of Australia.

To celebrate its fruitful achievements, Young holds an annual festival crammed with family-friendly activities such as pie-eating contests and the crowning of the Cherry King and Queen. For overseas tourists and day-trippers from the bustling "big smoke" of Sydney, the National Cherry Festival offers a tasteful insight into rural Australia.

© Provided by Xinhua

The event, traditionally held over the first weekend in December during the peak of the cherry season, was cancelled last year and scaled down this year, but what it lacked in size was compensated by the enthusiasm of its organizers, market store holders and festival goers.

Among those keen to sell their colorful array of freshly-picked cherries, local-made pies and jams was Stony Creek Orchards' Bridget Sell. Their products were a big hit and by the end of the weekend were near sold-out.

"We've had to downscale things this year, but the festival organizers have reinvented a lot of things. So along with the busking and the light festival, they have given us a fresh opportunity to be here," Sell told Xinhua.

© Provided by Xinhua

Nestled in the Highlands district, about 250 km from Young, is the picturesque village of Bowral where small businesses are also ready and willing to win over free-spending tourists.

Along the main street, adorned with Christmas decorations, boutique fashion stores jostle for trade alongside art galleries, gift shops and antique sellers.

Among all that action is Sweets and Treats, where shop assistant, Jade, told Xinhua that the business was beginning to prepare for an "onslaught" of tourists during the summer school holidays.

© Provided by Xinhua

"During COVID it was definitely very different, not having all the Sydney people, Bowral relies on tourists from there," Jade said.

She said despite some fear that the new Omicron variant would prompt further restrictions, they were still planning for a best-case scenario.

"From a business standpoint, I think there is always that fear (that restrictions will be introduced)... over the last two years there has always been that fear, that something's going to change."

© Provided by Xinhua

"But I guess, we're not really thinking about that at the moment."

Jade added that the easing of restrictions in NSW, while important for the local economy, was also anticipated by residents who had been locked out of the state's capital.

"Lots of our locals have family who are young parents themselves, so they haven't been able to meet any of their grandkids or see their kids in a really long time, and a lot of those people have family in Sydney."

© Provided by Xinhua

For now, Sell in Young was looking to the peak season with cautious optimism.

"We want to be forward thinking and still engage people during these times, and we've got to work through it, don't we? That was scary, but I'm so thrilled to have everyone here really."

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