Hunter Valley: Tourists alone won’t solve $160 million economic loss threatening its future

The excitement of welcoming tourists back to the Hunter Valley is being over shadowed by the enormity of the economic cost of the COVID-19 shutdown. An uncertain future still looms large for many wine and tourism businesses.

Amy Cooper, CEO of the Hunter Valley Wine & Tourism Association (HVWTA) reports that “figures released by the HVWTA reveal that COVID-19 has caused an $85 million loss to the Hunter Valley economy from March to May 2020. 100% of businesses in the Hunter Valley’s wine and tourism industry have reported a significant reduction in revenue, with close to half of all businesses suffering a complete loss of income since COVID-19 restrictions were introduced in mid March.”

80% of businesses have had to close, with COVID-19 restrictions forcing either full or partial closures. Businesses in the Hunter Valley have experienced an overall 95% reduction in business activity, with the tourism sector – accommodation, tour operators, activities & attractions, restaurants, cafes & bars – hardest hit by this pandemic.

“COVID-19 decimated our economy, which was already devastated by drought and the summer bushfires. With an annual wine tourism economy valued at $557 million per annum. The running economic loss for the Hunter Valley is conservatively calculated at a staggering $160 million since the bushfires started in our region in November 2019. Our industry requires urgent protection and immediate assistance,” says Christina Tulloch, President of the HVWTA.

Hunter Valley Wine Country is the most visited wine destination in Australia, making it the nation’s most important wine tourism asset. At 192 years old, it is Australia’s oldest wine region. The Hunter Valley is home to many of our most iconic wine brands. 2,800 people are regularly employed in Wine Country, representing $104 million in wages annually.

“Even with the Commonwealth Government’s JobKeeper support payment saving hundreds of jobs across our region. Three out of four businesses have still had to decrease their staffing levels, with over half of all Hunter Valley businesses having reduced their teams by 50% or more. Our industry needs certainty from Government about support beyond September” says Ms Cooper.

The majority of Wine Country industry is small businesses, from owner operator run to employing up to 25 staff. It will take time and significant support for these small businesses to get back on their feet. Particularly, as businesses are collectively facing a projected loss of up to $298 million over a 12 month period.

“A number of businesses have already made the incredibly difficult decision to permanently close. It’s a final heartbreaking call for people to let go of their livelihood, that they’ve invested years, if not decades in. So it is deeply concerning that 3 out of 4 businesses are reporting that they are uncertain and not confident in their viability over the next 12 months. The future of our wine tourism industry is under threat,” says Ms Cooper

“We were already having a tough time with drought and then bushfires in the Valley, COVID-19 has taken a huge personal toll on our people. We are normally a very connected community. The added burden of social isolation is challenging when people are under so much stress and pressure. Sadly, 1 in 5 people have shared with us that they have experienced a decline in their mental health and wellbeing. The HVWTA wants to be here to support our people in their greatest time of need” says Ms Tulloch.

The HVWTA is a member based not-for-profit, responsible for the sustainability of the wine tourism industry and destination marketing to attract visitors to the Hunter Valley. The history of the Association dates back over 173 years. However, the HVWTA currently receives no local, state or federal funding.

“The Hunter Valley Wine & Tourism Association is wholly a membership-funded organisation. Our businesses are just hanging on. They need the support of their industry Association now more than ever. So the HVWTA is calling on government for critical funding investment. Our industry has identified a number key of ways that government can be active in assisting recovery efforts. We want government to work with the HVWTA to ensure the Hunter Valley has a strong, viable and vibrant wine tourism industry into the future” says Ms Tulloch.

Source: Hunter Valley Wine & Tourism Association

Taylor Swift: Homes New York to Nashville to Beverly Hills

While Taylor Swift’s meteoric rise to music stardom is impressive, so too is her growth as a real estate mogul. As of 2020, she owns approximately $81 million in mansions and penthouses in Nashville, Rhode Island, Beverly Hills and New York City and is presently looking for a home in London to be near her boyfriend, British actor Joe Alwyn.

As a tween music prodigy, Swift’s parents moved from Pennsylvania to Nashville to help jump-start her career. A few years later at age 20, Swift embarked on her ten-year real estate adventure purchasing her starter home in the center of Nashville’s Music Row for $1.99 million. The 3,240-square-foot condo overlooking the city kept her close to the recording studios and her new peer group.

With her singing career growing rapidly and the necessity of spending time in Los Angeles, Swift needed a comfortable retreat and purchased a Cape Cod-style home in Beverly Hills in 2011 for $3.55 million that she sold a few years later for about $4 million. Back to Nashville in 2011, Taylor bought a 5,000-square-foot, Greek Revival-style mansion on almost six acres for her parents in the elite suburb of Forest Hills for $2.5 million that she still owns. In 2012, Swift bought a mid-century-modern home in Los Angeles for $1.78 million which she sold for $2.65 million in 2018.

By 2013, Swift’s music and real estate careers had both hit the stratosphere with multiple Grammy, MTV, People’s Choice, Billboard and Entertainer of the Year Awards, and her cash purchase of a 12,000-square-foot beach mansion in Rhode Island’s Watch Hill for $17.75 million. It is the house where Swift is known for the parties she throws for her girl squad. But soon back on the East Coast, New York City was calling.

By Valentine’s Day in 2014, Swift was checking out the trendy Manhattan neighborhood of Tribeca. She settled on two penthouses for $20 million, which she combined to cover 8,309 square feet of living space encompassing ten bedrooms and ten baths. She added a third next door in 2015 in the form of an $18 million townhouse and further in 2018 by adding an apartment in the same building for $9.75 million.

The best of them all came in 2015 in Beverly Hills when Swift bought the historic Samuel Goldwyn mansion for $25 million. In honor of Goldwyn’s award-winning career as a film producer and contributions to the film industry, Swift decided to restore the home to its original 1934 condition when it was built for the Goldwyns. In 2018, she applied for and won Los Angeles landmark status for the estate ensuring that the home will never be significantly changed or demolished.

Now at age 30, Taylor Swift isn’t slowing down for a second. Her new Netflix documentary, Miss Americana has just hit the Internet with a splash and it is rumored that she has jumped the pond and is in London checking out its real estate market!

Visit for more historic, spectacular and celebrity homes and real estate news and Celebrity Home Video Tours.

Source: Top Ten Realestate Deals

Vinnies shops in NSW announce sustainable homewares range re/cycle

Vinnies NSW has announced a new product range created from recycled textiles including donations to Vinnies Shops that were not able to be sold on the shop floor. The range is called re/CYCLE in a nod to the repurposed and circular nature of its original source.

The Vinnies re/CYCLE product range will include throw blankets, beach towels, tea towels, rugs, cushions and other homewares 100% recycled from textiles including those that were unable to be resold in their original condition.


“At Vinnies our core purpose is to help people experiencing poverty and disadvantage, but we’re also passionate about embracing sustainability to help the environment,” said Yolanda Saiz, Executive Director of Commercial Enterprise, Fundraising and Communictions at St Vincent de Paul Society NSW.”

“For two years now, Vinnies has been exporting some of the clothes it can’t sell in its shops to partners who are now recycling textiles (including many of these donations) into these beautiful items. We are so excited to be a market leader amongst charity op-shops to take this first step into fashion circularity.”

“By purchasing the beautiful homewares from the re/CYCLE range, shoppers will be able to financially support our charity work while saving fabrics from landfill.”

Globally, 11.7 million tonnes of textile waste ends up in landfill each year. The circular recycling model allows Vinnies Shops to divert waste from landfill and reduce environmental impact by reselling second-hand clothing, and recycling fabrics when they are unable to be sold.

The re/CYCLE range is sure to be a hit with the conscious consumer as well as those looking to style their home with affordable yet environmentally friendly accessories. The new recycled range will first land in Brookvale, Sutherland, Nowra and Lavington stores in early June.

The proceeds from re/CYCLE sales will support people experiencing poverty, homelessness and hardship, including the growing number of households financially struggling due to COVID- 19.

Source: Vinnies

Westward Oregon: Award-winning whiskey launches in Australia

Westward, the highest-rated American Single Malt Whiskey, has proudly announced the Australian launch of Westward Oregon Stout Cask Whiskey.

 This new tipple is rich and robust with notes of roasted grain, stone fruit, toasted pecan, milk chocolate and has a bold, dry finish. In fact, the Westward Whiskey Stout Cask received a Gold Medal at the 2020 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

This single malt is meticulously crafted like all Westward whiskey but finished in Stout casks. Westward Whiskey Oregon Stout Cask is inspired by Oregon’s leading brewing culture, and grew out of their longstanding cask-trading tradition among a select group of beer producers in the Northwest.

Westward pursues perfection through its philosophy of Minimalist Distilling, a crucial difference in an industry driven by the principle of mass efficiency, by going to great lengths to bring out the flavor of its grain and other natural ingredients.

Westward Oregon Stout Cask begins by brewing a delicious American pale ale, from scratch, using locally malted barley, ale yeast, and a slow, low temperature fermentation.

The fresh beer is then distilled twice in custom pot stills designed to create a bold, robust spirit before entering lightly toasted American Oak barrels barrel at a relatively low proof. The whiskey is aged to taste in the Portland, where the region’s hot, dry summers and cool, wet winters are the ideal environment to raise a world class single malt whiskey. Finally, select Westward barrels are further finished for up to one year in fresh stout casks to create Westward Oregon Stout Cask.

“The abundance of the Northwest yields the best raw materials and attracts the best craftspeople, and Westward brings together the power of both in one of the most iconic beer-producing regions in the world; Westward American Single Malt Oregon Stout Cask is our tribute to just that,” said Thomas Mooney, Founder and CEO, Westward Whiskey.

“Given our team’s passion for brewing and our close relationships with our Northwest brewing partners, it was a natural progression to create a Stout Cask Finish, which adds a discernible hint of chocolate that perfectly accentuates the signature toasted malty notes of our prized flagship American Single Malt.”

Imported and distributed by Think Spirits in Australia, Westward Whiskey Stout Cask is now available at

Source: Westward

Merivale reopens expansive hospitality portfolio, reigniting thousands of hospitality jobs across Sydney

Leading hospitality group Merivale is set to reopen its expansive hospitality portfolio with restaurants, bars and pubs welcoming up to 50 guests as part of the state’s easing of lockdown restrictions.

The move will reignite thousands of hospitality jobs across Sydney, as the group continues to throw its weight behind the reinvigoration of Australia’s hospitality industry. Reservations are now open via

Speaking of the government’s phase two plan, Justin Hemmes, CEO of Merivale, said: “This is the best news we’ve had in months, and marks the real beginning to hospitality’s road to recovery. I would like to commend the government who not only acted swiftly to protect our country, but who are now also doing everything they can to help us safely reopen doors and rebuild the industry. Whilst we are still a little while away from operating all our venues at full capacity, the increase to 50 customers is a huge leap forward and one that will result in an exponential increase in employment”.

“Thank you, as always, to our incredible staff and loyal guests for their patience, support and unwavering optimism that things would get better. They finally have”.

Since COVID-19 restrictions were first introduced, Merivale has remained committed to delivering exceptional food and drink experiences to its guests, while trying to maintain a livelihood for as many employees and suppliers as possible.

During the lock-down period, the hospitality leader launched takeaway from a number its most-loved venues including Mr. Wong, Coogee Pavilion, Totti’s Bondi, Bar Totti’s, Jimmy’s Falafel, Lotus 2.0, and The Paddington / The Chicken Shop, and created ‘Just In’, Merivale’s own in-house delivery service run entirely by employees.

The group also launched Merivale at Home, an at-home dining service that delivers renowned chef-prepared almost-ready meals from several of its flagship venues, beverage packs including ready-to-enjoy cocktail creations, plus restaurant-quality fresh produce boxes – all straight to customers’ doors. All three new businesses will continue to operate as venues reopen for guests.

Merivale’s ‘Welcome Back’ timeline includes:

Open Now- Bar Totti’s, Coogee Pavilion (ground floor), Jimmy’s Falafel, Mr. Wong, The Paddington, The Allawah, Angel Hotel, Establishment Main Bar, The Grand, Hotel CBD, The Newport (Arms Bar only), The Royal Bondi, The Royal George, Tennyson Hotel, Totti’s, Vic on the Park, Wynyard Hotel, El Loco Excelsior, Felix.

Wednesday 3 June – The Beresford Hotel, Charlie Parker’s, Fred’s, Hotel Centennial, Lotus 2.0, mimi’s, Ms.G’s, Queen Chow Enmore, Una Mas

Thursday 4 June- The Collaroy, Bert’s, Little Felix, hemmesphere, Queen Chow Manly, sushi e

Friday 5 June – The Newport

All Merivale venue operations will be consistent with government mandated health and safety regulations, with the safety and comfort of its guests and staff paramount at all times. Additional venues and event spaces will open once the government moves into the third phase of its recovery plan.

Source: Merivale