TOURISM operators have urged border bubble residents to visit the Murray River, as they face mass cancellation after the Victoria-NSW border closed.
Thousands of Victorian tourists staying just north of the border were forced to pack up and leave just before the new year, leaving Moama almost empty and Echuca quiet.
It's left businesses in Victorian Echuca and NSW's Moama struggling after an already tough year, as the majority of holiday makers staying on the northern side were Victorians.
Murray River Paddlesteamers director Craig Burgess said empty caravan parks meant it was likely businesses would suffer for the rest of January at least.
His business has already refunded more than $10,000 in cancellations after the border closure was announced.
Despite this, the business wouldn't qualify for government support such as JobKeeper payments, because it had a decent November and December, Mr Burgess said.
He said many Victorians were confused, thinking paddlesteamer businesses such as his had stopped operation, so prospective tourists planned travel elsewhere.
But Mr Burgess said all paddle steamers were still running as normal, just avoiding landing on the NSW side of the river.
Echuca Moama Tourism chief executive Kathryn Mackenzie said Moama tourism operators had gone from a fully booked January to almost nothing in just days.
She urged border bubble residents to travel north to enjoy the Murray River, which would normally have been booked out.
Ms Mackenzie said the mass exodus of Victorians from Moama had a flow on effect on Echuca tourism as well, as the NSW town could accommodate 5300 people, making up about two thirds of the beds across the towns.
Moama visitors would all patronise businesses in the Echuca during their stay as well, she said.
Ms Mackenzie said even residents of the border bubble who would have been allowed to stay had left Moama, because their status was not clear in the first announcements.
She said the situation meant Moama tourism businesses were starting from scratch as they marketed to border bubble towns such as Bendigo and Shepparton.
Ms Mackenzie said the closure came after a particularly hard year for Echuca-Moama, which had been hit by both Victorian and NSW travel restrictions.
"We've only traded for 14 weeks last year because of the border closures. That's less than anyone else in Victoria or NSW," she said.
"It's just been very devastating for businesses that have been out of business for 38 weeks of last year."
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