JUST as the local tourism industry was on the brink of pandemic recovery, it's been dealt a another blow, with a spate of cancellations weeks out from the busiest time of year.
Local caravan parks, hotels and motels would normally be booked out for January's Tamworth Country Music Festival, but hesitancy around the latest variant of COVID-19 means some travellers are pressing the pause button.
City Lights Caravan Park owner Deborah Norris said visitors have been cancelling their bookings in the past month, but over the last few days the phones have gone quiet.
"They panicked at first, but now I think they're waiting on a decision, or whether borders will be shut," she said.
"I really think people are holding off, they're waiting to see how things are going to go with this new variant.
"When I ask people why they are cancelling, some of them say they're not vaccinated - well the answer to that is go and get vaccinated if you want to travel."
Mrs Norris said normally at this time of year the park would be completely booked out ahead of the festival, but older visitors to the city are afraid they will contract the infection and would rather wait until 2023.
"Some of them because they've been coming for so long, they're just transferring their money over," she said.
"I can't refund the money to everyone, COVID has been here for now going into its third year and people can't use that anymore as an excuse."
Over at Tamworth's Austin Tourist Park, there has also been a handful of cancellations, but is still near capacity ahead of the festival. All powered sites have been booked at the park, while very few cabins remain available.
Meanwhile, Paradise Tourist Park has been hit with cancellations, and Tamworth's Best Western Sanctuary Inn has reported busloads of people pulling out.
Despite the concerns, many locals like Mrs Norris understand how important the festival is for the local community are many are supportive of it going ahead.
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