POTENTIAL visitors are ringing the city's information centre to ask about the level of bushfire smoke in Bathurst and whether there are fires in the region.
But Bathurst Regional Council tourism and visitor services manager Daniel Cove says the centre is working hard to promote the fact the city remains open for business during a summer in which Bells Line of Road and the Great Western Highway have both been forced to close.
Mr Cove said the impact of the summer of fires was clear at the centre.
"Anecdotally, a number of businesses, though not all, are reporting reduced trade and occupancy," he said.
"Visitation to BVIC [Bathurst Visitor Information Centre] itself was down by 35.4 per cent between Boxing Day and New Year's Day compared with 2018 and our foot traffic is a good gauge of travel to the region generally."
Phone calls to the centre have indicated consistent worries, he said.
"We have had an elevated number of phone inquiries, and a consistent line of questioning concerns whether there are fires in the region, how regional road closure would impact visitors - not just the Great Western Highway - and how bad the smoke is," he said.
Bells Line of Road over the Blue Mountains closed for 12 days in December at the height of the bushfire crisis in central NSW.
The Great Western Highway - the main route between Bathurst and Sydney - also closed twice last month due to fires.
Trains aren't running between Lithgow and Mount Victoria due to bushfire damage to the track and signalling structures along the Western Line rail corridor.
"We have been actively promoting that Bathurst is not directly affected by the fires, and is very much open for business," Mr Cove said.
"Naturally, we are not trying to capitalise in any way on the misfortune of coastal communities.
"However, we have been suggesting via social media and our consumer newsletters that the Bathurst region offers a safe option for those considering a summer short break and are currently running a digital campaign focused on the region's villages.
"We are also increasing the focus on Elton John [who will perform in Bathurst on January 22], the 12 Hour, BMX World Cup and Inland Sea of Sound as signature summer events demonstrating that Bathurst remains a destination of choice.
"We have also started discussing with the tourism partner network as well as with other councils such as Oberon the development of a campaign to be launched when the current fire situation is over to encourage potential visitors to travel to regional NSW in a win/win scenario - have a rejuvenating, memorable experience in a wonderful area, and in doing so you will actually be benefiting the communities of these regions who have been doing things very tough through the drought and the fires."
To Bathurst's south, Oberon businesses say they have been hurting due to a big drop in visitor numbers.
"The fires and the drought have hit us hard, as it has other businesses in Oberon," Stella McGrath from the Big Trout Motor Inn said.
"We're not even getting the drive through traffic that spend money on fuel and food in the main street."
Sharon Coleman from the Highlands Motor Inn said the motel had had no tourist trade at all.
Only firefighters from NSW RFS and National Parks staying at the motel had kept them going, she said.
"If it wasn't for them, we would have been in trouble," she said.
"I've got a folder full of cancellations that started before Christmas."