It's fingers crossed for a great holiday season

At the Merimbula Visitor Information Centre Chris Nicholls and Sandy Glass say the numbers are looking good for the upcoming season.
At the Merimbula Visitor Information Centre Chris Nicholls and Sandy Glass say the numbers are looking good for the upcoming season.

After two disasterous summers for everyone involved in tourism, there is a quickening of the pulse with a much more positive outlook overtaking Merimbula.

Not only are bookings looking good for the traditional holiday period to mid January, solid bookings extend beyond, Merimbula Tourism's manager Chris Nicholls said.

In the town itself there is a new vibrancy; in January 2020 there were 25 vacant shops in Merimbula, now there are only six.

President of the Merimbula Chamber of Commerce Nigel Ayling said it was a massive turn around in short period of time, "especially when you consider the challenges of the past two years including bushfires and COVID.

"Considering what we have all been through in the past two years we have seen an amazing recovery," Mr Ayling said.

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Mr Nicholls said Merimbula looked to be having a sell-out peak tourism season 2021/22.

"Accommodation bookings are at an absolute premium with around 99.5 per cent booked - from December 18, 2021 through to January 16, 2022," he said, adding that the centre was looking for more volunteers to help assist visitors.

"Beyond that it's about 95 per cent full to January 30, 2022. Fingers crossed, it's shaping up to be a bumper tourism season," Mr Nicholls said.

Through its members, the Merimbula Visitor Information Centre has about 75 per cent of the holiday accommodation, not including holiday rentals but Mr Nicholls said that the rental agencies he had spoken to were seeing a similar situation.

Mr Ayling is equally enthusiastic about the changes in Merimbula town centre.

"It's not just the big shops at the top end of town that have opened recently like Aldi, Mitre 10 and Total Tools, Pod gardens has relocated to a new location and brought a whole lot of colour to the corner store location, the Tobacconist relocated to a bigger store on Main Street and the Reject shop moved in to take the place of Target," he said.

"On Merimbula Dr the mall that goes through to Main Street has filled up again with new owners of In The Mix Bakery, a new travel agent called the Travel Compass, and a collective craft store called the Procraftinators. The food outlets have all had a make over too with Fresh Daily Dinners moving in to the old Hungrys location, a new Indian Restaurant, the Legacy of India opening, and new owners taking over and renaming to Zaffiro Italian Restaurant.

"Highlands Corner has seen the addition of Market St Café and the chamber's own homewares and gift store, The Essence which moved into the old Elders building," Mr Ayling said.

In the middle of town the old bakery and Tackleworld buildings that were burnt down are nearly rebuilt and Tackle World will move back in soon.

Sunfox relocated to the main Street and Enhance U has opened a new baby wear store in Merimbula Plaza where the tobacconist departed.

"Raging Bull opened their new store in 2020 which includes a coffee shop, after a short trial in a pop up shop organised by the chamber over Christmas 2019," Mr Ayling said.

"Down along Lakeside Walk new shops include Daisy Girl Boutique, Rug World a new Candy Store and APM employment office. Aria Kebabs moved in to the old Subway location and Nourish café has occupied the empty space left on the boardwalk when Ginger and Luvvy moved.

"On the lower end of Market St, Rip Curl recently opened their new store taking the old Sanity building and creating a real draw card for that part of town. Wanderlust and the Muse also relocated from the middle in to a larger store next to Coast," Mr Ayling added.

There's no doubt of the positive vibe and expectation that is pervading the area.

In August Mr Nicholls put out a social medla post about Merimbula and how the town was missing its visitors, which had 25,000 hits and generated comments from would be visitors saying how much they missed and loved Merimbula.

"With a busy summer coming up, it will be great to see the shops full again and the town busy with people. Fingers crossed they are all in for a great summer season," Mr Ayling said.