For a local motel owner, it was the worst kind of letter to get.
This week Helen Tenish, who owns the Gallop Inn on Cobra Street, received a letter from two repeat customers to say they would not be returning to Dubbo this year after seeing reports of violence in the Gordon Estate.
Following a report on the Seven Network about recent problems in West Dubbo, Paul and Veronica Hinderer cancelled their third trip to the city.
“We love Dubbo and (would) like to come again but not while a war is raging,” they wrote.
This comes after national media coverage of last week’s meeting which addressed the Gordon Estate, and was chaired by a representative from the NSW Premier’s Department.
Ms Tenish was devastated to receive the bad news, and immediately called the couple, who had twice before signed up for a regional tour that Ms Tenish puts on for motel clients.
“It makes me feel sick,” she said.
“This is someone who has taken the time to write. How many hundreds of people have been turned off that wouldn’t bother?”
She said she suspected there were other local businesses similarly affected by the negative publicity.
Helen’s tours take in a sweep of the region and are targeted to seniors looking for an inland holiday.
Ms Tenish said she normally brings in “about 800 people into town”.
“The problem is that bad word-of-mouth travels just as fast (as good),” she said.
Earlier this week Dubbo mayor Allan Smith explained there was a general downturn in tourism across the region, with the competition from cheap airfares to the glamorous coastal locations.
But he admitted that this week’s stories in metropolitan newspapers “certainly doesn’t help”.
When the Daily Liberal contacted Mr Hinderer, he explained he and his wife were afraid to revisit the city.
“We didn’t like the idea that this was happening. Tourists should be able to walk the streets without worrying,” he said.
Mr Hinderer said he would reconsider their decision after 12 months if things in Dubbo had settled down.
But he wouldn’t hesitate to tell people why he chose to cancel this year’s trip.
“If anyone asks, I’m honest, I’ll tell them. I’ll tell them the truth about it.”
“It’s sad because this is obviously hurting people who rely on tourism in Dubbo, and I really feel sorry for Helen.”
Ms Tenish believes the problems in the Gordon Estate are hurting tourism, but she also believes they’re problems that can be solved.
She boiled the issues in the estate down to “a strong drug and alcohol problem”.
“People say it’s an Aboriginal problem, but it’s not. It’s a problem with alcohol abuse.”
But while she may hope for a solution, in the meantime she’s losing business.
The cancellation means the loss of two and a half thousand dollars.
But what frightens Ms Tenish most, are the potential and unknown losses she and other tourist service providers may be experiencing.
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