AUSTRALIANS are being urged to "explore their own backyard" with a regional holiday, as states begin to ease social distancing rules.
Stage one of the three-part plan to ease restrictions - which will be up to the state governments to rollout - allows for "regional and rural" travel.
Australian Regional Tourism deputy chair Donna Foster said after being battered by floods, fire, drought and now the pandemic, domestic tourism offered rural areas a glimmer of hope.
She called for Aussies to "reconnect with their own amazing country", which had been "under-explored" by its residents for years.
"We're expecting people to be holidaying in their own backyards and taking roadies like we've never known," Ms Foster said.
"When you've got a holiday, it's tempting to get on a plane to Bali or England.
"But so often we don't know what's an hour or two down the road, let alone three or four hours further along."
Ms Foster's top tips for a regional holiday were to "find a place you've never heard of" and "take your time".
"Don't be in a rush to get from A to B, stay a while because it means so much to these towns," she said.
"Wonder around, have look at the shops, spend some money buying lunch. It makes a big difference.
"You don't realise how much tourism contributes to these places until you take it away."
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Judy Rankin owns Fox and Hound bed and breakfast at Bright, at the foot of Mt Buffalo in Victoria's Alpine Shire.
Tourism in the area has already suffered two major blows in 2020, with bushfires leading to evacuations in January, and now coronavirus.
"I had to refund all my Bright customers over the bushfire period around Christmas," she said.
"And then, for coronavirus to come at our second-busiest period over Easter ... it's been extremely difficult for everyone."
Ms Rankin was confident the region would soon attract its share of visitors once intra-state travel was allowed.
"We're all just waiting at the moment. Everybody's been doing a lot of maintenance and so on, just making sure that when things are back, the town is even brighter than it was before."
Grace Cavedon, owner of the Red Stag Deer Farm at nearby Eurobin, agreed the double whammy of the bushfires and COVID-19 had proved devastating.
"To have them both one on top of the other in summer and now autumn ... they are the two seasons we really rely on," she said.
"It's probably 60 to 70 per cent of our annual business."
Ms Cavedon said Alpine Shire tourism operators were eager for things to return to some kind of normal.
"People still need to be cautious, but in saying that we would encourage people that, once it is safe to do so, they head out and support tourism businesses," Ms Cavedon said.
"We are hoping that people will not shy away."
When states are easing restrictions
Each state is easing the restrictions at their own pace.
From Monday (May 11), South Australia allowed all country accommodation across the state to reopen, including caravan parks, hotels, motels and Airbnb services. Alcohol-free outdoor dining at cafes and restaurants are also permitted to open.
From Saturday (May 16), Queensland residents will be able to recreational travel of a radius of up to 150 kilometres from your home for day trips.
For outback Queensland, where there are no recorded cases, up to 20 locals will be able to gather at pubs and cafes, and people will be permitted to travel up to 500 kilometres.
NSW is expected to allow regional travel later this month, or by June at the latest.
Victoria is yet to announce when regional travel will be allowed, as it continues with the Cedar Meatworks cluster.
Interstate travel is still off the table until stage two. The government is hoping to have eased most restrictions by July.
The story Aussies urged to take regional holiday when restrictions ease first appeared on Farm Online.