Wed. Aug 10th, 2022

Mid North Coast tourism operators say they’ve been hit by a pre-school holiday rush, thanks to a last-minute surge in people cashing in their NSW Dine and Discover Vouchers.

The $ 25 Dine and $ 25 Discover vouchers were launched in March 2021 to help businesses stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic, and are due to expire on June 30.

Owner of Port Macquarie’s Billabong Zoo Mark Stone said the voucher scheme had been a savior for the business, but the biggest boost had been in the past week.

“Right at this very moment it is extremely busy, so many people are racing to use the Dine & Discover vouchers,” he said.

A zoo owner with a cheetah.
Mark Stone from Billabong Zoo says the Discover Vouchers have been a huge help for his business.(Supplied: Billabong Zoo)

“Last weekend was an amazingly busy weekend and one of the biggest days [we’ve had was] on Sunday, so [this incentive] has been a massive help to us. “

Operations manager at Coffs Coast Mini Golf Tom Major has had a similar experience.

Profile shot of Tom Major standing in front of the Coffs Coast mini golf course.
Golf operations manager Tom Major says it’s good to see people trying something new with their Discovery Vouchers. (ABC Coffs Coast: Indiana Hansen)

“Over the last seven days we’ve had about 220 vouchers used, so that’s quite a significant increase from what we saw at the start of the year for sure,” he said.

“I think it was money well spent, it got people out and about doing things they may not have done if they did not get the vouchers.

“We definitely saw some new faces and I think we’ve seen them come back after they’ve used their vouchers.”

A moral booster

Mr Stone says he thinks Dine & Discover has helped more than just his business.

“I think it was a great initiative for the mental wellbeing of the general public, as well, because it did force them to go, ‘Well, lets get out’,” he said.

“Certainly, we’ve seen families who are maybe doing it tough or tougher who have used the vouchers and come in and had a great time.”

Mr Stone said he’d like to see the vouchers extended beyond the June 30 deadline.

The state government has ruled out extending the vouchers.

Coffs Harbor restaurateur Marcus Blackwell agrees the state government incentive has had a benefit broader than businesses alone.

“It was important people had somewhere to go to treat themselves,” Mr Blackwell said.

Millions unspent

Despite the last-minute rush, there is still a staggering amount of Dine and Discovery cash yet to be used.

Service NSW said about $ 16 million worth of vouchers were yet to be redeemed on the Mid North Coast, which equates to around 40 per cent of total vouchers issued.

While some may have left their run too late to use their vouchers, there are ways to extend their life.

A Service NSW spokesperson said customers could redeem a Discover Voucher ahead of the June 30 deadline and use it for an activity scheduled beyond the cut-off date, provided it is booked at the time of redemption.

However Dine NSW restaurant bookings cannot be pre-paid or pre-booked for dates beyond June 30.

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