Mid-North Coast tourist companies report last-minute rush to use Dine and Discover NSW vouchers

Tourism groups in the mid-North Coast say they’ve been hit by a pre-school holiday rush, thanks to a last-minute surge of people redeeming their NSW Dine and Discover Vouchers.

The $25 Dine and $25 Discover vouchers were launched in March 2021 to help businesses survive the COVID-19 pandemic and will expire on June 30.

Owner of Billabong Zoo in Port Macquarie, Mark Stone, said the voucher scheme had been a rescue for the company, but the biggest boost was in the past week.

“Right now it’s extremely busy so a lot of people are racing to use the Dine & Discover vouchers,” he said.

A zoo owner with a cheetah.
Mark Stone of Billabong Zoo says the Discover Vouchers have been a huge help to his business.Supplied: Billabong Zoo

“Last weekend was an incredibly busy weekend and one of the greatest days [we’ve had was] on sunday, so [this incentive] helped us a lot.”

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

Profile photo 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

“We’ve used about 220 vouchers in the last seven days, so that’s definitely a significant increase from what we saw at the start of the year,” he said.

“I think it was money well spent, it made people do things that they might not have done if they hadn’t gotten the vouchers.

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

A morale booster

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

“I think it was also a great initiative for the mental wellbeing of the general public, because it forced them to go, ‘Well, let’s get out,’” he said.

“Certainly, we’ve seen families who may be having a hard time or a harder time that used the vouchers and came in and had a great time.”

Mr Stone said he would 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 that the state government incentive has benefited wider than just businesses.

“It was important for people to have somewhere to treat themselves,” said Mr Blackwell.

Millions not spent

Despite the last minute crowds, there’s still a staggering amount of Dine and Discovery money waiting to be used.

Service NSW said about $16 million in vouchers remained to be redeemed on the Mid North Coast, equivalent to about 40 percent of the total vouchers issued.

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

A Service NSW spokesperson said customers can redeem a Discover Voucher before the June 30 deadline and use it for an activity scheduled after the closing date, provided it’s booked at the time of redemption.

However, Dine NSW restaurant reservations cannot be prepaid or reserved for dates after June 30.