The mostly fine weather helped — and perhaps even shark sightings at several Sydney beaches — but whatever the reasons, Upper Mountains towns enjoyed a strong tourist boost during the post-Christmas holiday period.
Blue Mountains Lithgow and Oberon Tourism communications director Ellen Hill confirmed on Monday that 19,656 people went to the Visitor Information Centre at Echo Point between Boxing Day and December 31, making 2596 booking inquiries at the counter.
Katoomba’s biggest tourist attraction Scenic World had 55,000 visitors between Christmas Day and Friday, January 4.
This was less than for the same period last year due to rain on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, but Scenic World joint managing director David Hammon said ticket sales were up by 1 per cent from December 27 to January 4 and the peak day saw 7145 visitors.
“We’re very happy with the turnout and plenty of people visited to ride the train for the last time,” Mr Hammon said.
“People I have talked to are generally either excited to see what the new one will be like or nostalgic for the current one.
“The reasons are many and varied, obviously the social media campaign around the last train is helping, but overall just the excellent work of all the staff here at Scenic World all year round.”
More than 25 million people enjoyed a ride on the Scenic Railway to date and the final day of operation for the current train will be Sunday, January 13.
The ‘Mountain Devil’ will be replaced with a $30 million train, track and platform upgrade to further boost the visitor experience.
Former managing director Philip Hammon will attend for the train’s final ride wearing a vintage conductor’s outfit and will be joined by his children and new joint managing directors Anthea and David Hammon and other family members for this nostalgic moment.
Blue Mountains Cultural Centre director Paul Brinkman said about 4500 people entered the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre building between Boxing Day and January 4 to enjoy the gallery shop, the cafe, the regional gallery or the world heritage interpretive centre.
Mr Brinkman said the opening drawcard exhibition ‘Picturing the Great Divide’ — which continues until February 3 — attracted solid numbers but what was most impressive was more than 700 people signed up as gallery members since mid-November and more than 40 locals became gallery volunteers.
“We’d forecasted to get more than 800 members for our first 12 months of operation, so membership is currently well above projections and quite a portion of members are from Sydney,” Mr Brinkman said.
“It’s pretty rare for a regional gallery to have an opening show of this calibre and the feedback so far has been excellent.
“But it is just the first of many unique and high quality exhibitions for 2013 ranging from photography and paintings to sculpture and an ArtExpress show.
“As soon as more people become aware of this, that’s when they will sign up to be members.”
Mr Brinkman acknowledged the centre is “tucked away a little bit” from Katoomba Street (fronting College Lane above Coles Katoomba Village).
“We are working (with council) to try to get more signs and we are also looking at getting a bus parking facility,” he said.
For more information about the centre’s program for the first half of 2013, visit bluemountainsculturalcentre.com.au.