While the hurried departure of Victorian visitors has been devastating on the Far South Coast for a second year running, there is an opportunity for holiday makers says Bega Valley Shire Mayor Russell Fitzpatrick.
Working with tourism promoters Destination Sapphire Coast, Cr Fitzpatrick said unlike last year's bushfire crisis, the coast was still open to holiday makers.
The Sapphire Coast's tourism operators are encouraging visitors from Canberra, regional NSW or anyone within the border bubble to take advantage of this rare opportunity to experience life as a laid-back local, in turn helping a community get through two years of unprecedented hardship.
Cr Fitzpatrick said this represents a significant opportunity for those who can still travel to the Sapphire Coast.
"There may never be another time when you can enjoy a quintessential Sapphire Coast summer, just like a local but minus the crowds," Cr Fitzpatrick said.
"Beautiful weather, pristine water, deserted beaches, an abundance of oysters, plenty of parking, amazing accommodation and locals who are thrilled to see you - the list of reasons to visit goes on and on."
Big 4 Tathra owner Greg McKay said it was a heart-breaking start to the year with such a huge financial hit. "80 per cent of the park upped and rushed home on New Year's Eve. The next day had an eerily similar feel to last year when bushfires ended our season before it even started," Mr McKay said.
"Looking around now, I just can't believe this place is not buzzing as usual."
Whether it's for two days or two weeks, tourism operators agree there has never been a better time for our regional NSW, ACT and Vic border friends to visit the magnificent Sapphire Coast and discover their very own silver lining.
To see all that's on offer, visit www.sapphirecoast.com.au