Covid 19 changes in The Hunter Valley
When we closed
We stopped our Hunter Valley wine tours in early March. Covid in The Hunter Valley had certainly arrived! It was an eerie time, before we all really new the extent of what was to come. Australias boarders closed, and all of our pre bookings were cancelled. We quickly felt that the only responsible thing to do was to close down. It was a pandemic after all. We had to play our part.
The week or two before we stopped operating, the great toilet paper buy up was in full flight (omg seriously!! what were people thinking!!!) and the shelves were low on many staple products. Hand sanitiser was all the rage, and gloves and social distancing were now common sights.
Side note on hand sanitiser…I’ve always made fun of Americans and their germaphobic nature and need to hand sanitise at every opportunity. And I worry that post pandemic, we will all adopt the same obsession. Let’s not! When Covid is gone, #throwthehandsanitiseraway !
When we started operating again
We only just started going back up to The Hunter Valley a few weeks ago, over 7 months since we shut down! A long time. So, how are things going up there?
Well, to start with, Kangarrific Tours has had to change. We currently can’t offer group tours to the Hunter Valley, only private tours. Why? Well, there is almost no demand. Almost all of our guests were from abroad. And with Covid still out of control in Europe and North/Central/South America, our boarders are not going to open up anytime soon. I’d say for at least 12 months but may take much longer before things go back to where they were.
The weekends of the Hunter Valley, from what I hear have been really busy. Particularly Saturdays. Aussies now have limited places to go and so many are heading to places close to home.
Most of the group tours are guests who are staying in The Hunter Valley, so the tours are starting and finishing from there. Nobody seems to be interested in a day tour from Sydney.
Almost all cellar doors are charging tasting fees. Now this has been controversial issue for many years and I might do a separate blog on this later. But in essence, I’ve never understood why you would charge a potential customer to try your product. There are few exceptions to that however I’ll save that for another time. Fees currently range from $5-$20!pp
As limited numbers are allow at each cellar door, bookings are essential if you wish to taste at a particular vineyard. We have always made bookings for our groups however these were usually made on the morning of the tour after we got an idea what type of wines people were interested in. Now, it really should be done about a week in advance to secure a place at a suitable time. If you miss your time slot, then it’s tough luck! Often we must pay the tasting fee in advance too.
Private Tours Are preferred
There isn’t much demand for Sydney siders to join a day trip from Sydney. It’s a wonderful idea! However people generally don’t think about being a tourist in their own backyard. So rather than public group tours, there is a big shift towards private group tours. Friends/families/colleagues organising a tour together.
Covid in The Hunter Valley, as it is everywhere, resulted in social distancing being encouraged. Along with QR codes to scan and register, all the precautions you find at most cafes and restaurants in Sydney. At the moment, people are fairly relaxed about it compared to a few months ago. Hands are now being shaken again, and chatting to strangers (within a metre) is also now common.
Still a fun place to visit?
Of course it is!!! And I’m not just saying that to encourage bookings but it’s genuinely a lovely way to spend the day. It has been busy lately as many are looking for alternative activities with all the boarder closures. But I have spent over 1000 days in the Hunter Valley as a day trip from Sydney and I still love going there. It’s a place you can visit regularly and get to know, even if you live as far as Sydney. And heading to The Hunter Valley with a group of friends is really a special way to do it. So whether its been a few days, weeks, months or years, head back up there again soon! And why not contact us to help you book your Hunter Valley wine tour? We’d love to look after you!