The North East tourism industry suffered estimated financial losses of up to $430 million and disruption to nearly 4300 jobs because of the pandemic crisis, according to new research.
A study by Urban Enterprise commissioned by Tourism North East also found between 75 and 95 per cent of visitation was lost for the June quarter.
These results followed an earlier report on the summer bushfires' impact on the region's tourism that estimated the March quarter's losses at between $183 and $208 million.
Tourism North East chief executive Bess Nolan-Cook described this double blow as "incredibly heartbreaking".
"Because of the bushfires, a lot of businesses in the region don't have the financial cushion that they would have otherwise had off the back of their summer holiday trading," she said.
"So for a lot of people, there's not a lot of juice left in the tank.
"The reality will be that there are some businesses who won't be able to make it.
"So whilst I would love to hope that we'll see a return of a thriving visitor economy in the next couple of years, I think it will be a very dynamic situation.
"We are going to have to collectively get behind the tourism industry to make that happen."
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Ms Nolan-Cook said while hospitality and accommodation providers had been hit hard, the effects of the industry downturn spread much further.
"We've got businesses who, for example, might be a dress shop that you wouldn't ordinarily classify as a tourism business but they're inherently linked to the visitor economy," she said.
"They're able to trade because some of their customer base are visitors to the region."
The chief executive said the next stage of easing COVID-19 restrictions in Victoria was welcome, but advised travellers to plan ahead, use common sense and remain patient.
"There are going to be changes to the way that businesses operate and you may find yourself as a visitor needing to wait just a little extra time to be seated at a table or not be able to get into somewhere, have a meal, because they've reached their allocation, they're full," she said.
"If we all do the right thing, we can do it safely and happily."
Chiltern Bakery and Cafe owner Carol Ziebarth said her shop reduced its hours as the restrictions came in but had just started "little steps back to the full hours and we'll let trade dictate that to us".
The business retained its staff of 20, assisted by JobKeeper, and completed tasks like repainting and extra cleaning during the quiet times.
Mrs Ziebarth said while there were few visitors, the support of Chiltern residents during the takeaway-only period had been "fantastic".
The cafe is now preparing for dine-in customers next week, planning to seat up to 12 in its dining area.
"We are a bit tentative about having to police it, with the people in and out, taking the names and numbers, it's a little bit different for our shop," the owner said.
"We are of the mindset that if it does get too hard, we'll stop, we will just close off the dining room again."
Mrs Ziebarth said the Queen's Birthday long weekend was traditionally their busiest of the year.
"We sort of don't know what to expect, to tell you the truth," she said.
"These last two weekends have just been massive, it's like somebody shot the gun and everyone just went running.
"I think the really hard time's behind us, anyway."