Time for truffles as the black gold adds tourist value

Genevieve Jacobs 22 August 2018

NSW Deputy Premier and Member for Monaro John Barilaro, Damian Robinson of Turalla Truffles and Truffle Festival report author Megan Star at the report launch. Photos: Genevieve Jacobs.

There’s black gold in them thar hills, and now we’ve got the figures to prove it. A decade on from the Canberra truffle industry’s early days, Truffle Festival tourism is now worth around $8 million per annum to the region, according to research commissioned by local producers.

There are more than 10,000 truffle tourists each year, and they’ll spend up big while they’re here and will often return annually, according to Megan Star from the University of Central Queensland, who co-authored Valuing Artisan Agriculture for the Truffle Festival Association Canberra Region. The report was launched this week at Turalla Truffles at Bungendore by NSW Deputy Premier and local MP John Barilaro.

“We looked at who came, where they stayed, how much they spent, what events they attended during the Truffle Festival. I purposely separated out the tourism from the industry, so we could see what the Festival on its own was worth to the community”, Megan said. Just under half of the Festival visitors were locals, and while not all interstate attendees were here solely for the Festival, their tourism dollars helped drive the value of the event for local business.

Relative to other food and local tourism events, the Truffle Festival stacks up pretty well: the $8 million total value breaks down to $754 per person attending Festival events on average. Megan points out that the proximity to Canberra and Sydney helps greatly, and that not all artisan industries would be fortunate enough to have access to large populations with high-income levels.

“In 2016 in the initial research there weren’t many international visitors but as the Festival’s expanded, international markets have also become a key growth area for the Festival and their value will obviously be a lot higher than the domestic traveller”, she adds.

Jumping Jack Russells! The Turalla truffle hounds are keen participants in agri-tourism.

Tucking into the truffled cauliflower soup and Brie amidst the Turalla tribe of truffle-hunting Jack Russells, John Barilaro agreed that as droughts intensify and farmers are looking for new revenue streams, the Truffle Festival points towards an agri-tourism future for the region.

“It’s about driving some diversity in tourism products, creating boutique small unique experiences. We’ve moved away in this region from the big farms, it’s starting to be smaller lots with very specialised produce.”

Damian Robinson from Turalla Truffles says the Festival is looking at changing shape. “Instead of just being seasonal, we’re planning to pinpoint regional areas, do tours of different truffle communities. We’re certainly seeing a massive increase in the tourist numbers here at Turalla; our truffle lunches sell out weeks ahead. To be honest the truffles are giving my cattle a helping hand with the farm finances!”

Propping up the farm budget with truffles is certainly an innovation for local producers, but one that looks to be bearing fruit beneath the local oaks and hazelnuts.

Did you try a truffle this year?

Try a truffle today: freshly dug truffles are leading a valuable tourism investment in the Canberra region.

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