DESPITE a slump in tourism bookings in the Grampians, gourmet hospitality providers in the region have said they are "as busy as ever".
Five Ducks Farm owner Anita Evans said many visitors to the farm gate told her they had chosen to holiday in the Grampians instead of fire affected areas.
"I have had a lot of people go out of their way to tell us they had rebooked from Gippsland," she said.
Ms Evans said she couldn't compare visitation numbers to previous years because they only opened the farm gate in September. Nonetheless, she said there had been a steady mixture of people through the summer.
"For every 10 people that come through we probably get about seven from Melbourne, one or two international visitors passing through on their way to Halls Gap and one or two locals," she said.
Ms Evans operates Five Ducks in Pomonal with her partner Andy Cross where they sell 25 preserves and jams to the public as well as to wholesale.
She said the ice cream machine they had bought using money from a state government small business artisanal food producer grant had been a "gamechanger".
"Jumble berries, which is mixed berries is our most popular flavour but the lemon curd and honey flavours sell really well too," she said. "The coffee ice cream has been a hit with the adults."
Ms Evans said community support and collaborations with other Grampians businesses had helped to boost her own business.
"We have one hive at the moment so a local beekeeper has been bringing us extra bees to help," she said.
"We made a blackberry shiraz jelly exclusively for Pomonal Estate. It goes on a lot of their platters and when people try it they get talking about wanting to visit us."
Ms Evans said the business was almost at capacity for visitors currently but said it would be great to be included on a gourmet food trail map of the region.
"We have put in another grant to get more artisanal funding to convert a shed into a retail space," she said. "If we get that we would look at hiring more people to help me and Andy run things.
"For now people like us small. It is like a little secret and we get to spend more time with the visitors."
Down the road from Five Ducks Farm, Pomonal Estate owner Pep Atchison said business had been booming. Despite a small drop in accommodation bookings, they still plan to expand.
"Our plan was to build six villas," she said.
"We have one house that can sleep up to eight people at the moment. We had someone propose in there last night! Hopefully we will have another two villas ready for next summer."
Mrs Atchison said they were benefiting from the attention of winning East Grampians business of the year as well as a recent tourism ad blitz.
"We had a guy come in the other day who said he saw an ad for Pomonal Estate 40 times in one day," she said.
Mrs Atchison has run the site - which includes a winery, microbrewery, cider house, cafe and self-contained accommodation - with her husband Adam Atchison since 2017 said they were trying to create a "one-stop-shop"
"I used to work at Seppelts Wines for 11 years and also worked at Montara Wines," she said. "As I worked there I listened to what people said they wanted in the region."
Mrs Atchison said the key to their success had been working closely with other local businesses and taking advantage of the scenic location.
"We have had a few people say we should rename the cafe 3381 (the postcode for the area) because we sell so many local products," she said.
"We have jams from Five Ducks farm, Meg Blake provides vegetables from Bellellen Grampians Organics, Blue Moon Alpacas supply lettuce and cucumber, Blue Wren Bakery make all our crackers, our cheese is from Ballarat, we get our falafels and hummus from Rupanyup, bread from Great Western Granary and lamb from two doors up.
"Everyone promotes us because we have a lot of space. We have seven acres of open land," she said. "We just hosted a wedding in December for a couple from Rupanyup and there were 210 guests."
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