FOUR-LEGGED visitors are being credited with helping to drive a record-breaking year for Lake Macquarie City Council's holiday parks.
Council's holiday parks coordinator Garry Ellem said all four of the park sites - at Belmont, Blacksmiths, Swansea and Wangi Wangi - had been booked solid through Christmas and the New Year.
Revenue from the four holiday parks reached almost $6.5 million in the 2019 calendar year - a record for the city.
Direct and flow-on economic benefit for the local economy was estimated at almost $36 million, he said.
Pet-friendly accommodation options are now offered at two of the four parks.
Mr Ellem said new pet-friendly cabins at Blacksmiths Beachside and Belmont Lakeside holiday parks, and the earlier decision to welcome pets across all caravan and camping sites at Blacksmiths Beachside, had helped drive bookings.
"This has significantly contributed to the growth in park revenue and occupancy so far this financial year," Mr Ellem said.
"Converting two cabins at Blacksmiths Beachside and one at Belmont Lakeside to target the pet-friendly market has provided 266 additional nights usage since July 1."
Lakeshores - the Lake Macquarie property management agency which has almost 60 holiday rental properties on its books - said Christmas and New Year bookings jumped 12 per cent compared to the same period 12 months ago.
Mr Ellem said caravan and camping sites enjoyed some of the strongest growth in demand for years across all four sites in the Lake Mac Holiday Parks group.
Income from accommodation at Blacksmiths Beachside had risen more than 10 per cent this financial year, with even stronger growth in the number of nights stayed, he said.
Belmont Lakeside managers Peter and Stacey Jenner said up to 80 per cent of holiday park guests arrived with pets.
"Our dog-friendly cabin is booked solid through to February," Mr Jenner said.
"We're looking to put more pet-friendly cabins in this year to keep up with demand."
Park visitor Sharon McCarthy said she and her family, including grandchildren Ruby and Cooper, returned to Belmont Lakeside each year because of its pet-friendly status.
"We've got a caravan and could go anywhere really, but we always come here," Ms McCarthy said.
"We all know each other now, and the dogs know each other, too."
Recent pet-friendly upgrades include new dog-wash stations at Belmont Lakeside and Blacksmiths Beachside.
Western Sydney guest Heather Williams said finding accommodation where her cavoodle, Bonnie, would be happy was a major factor in choosing their summer holiday destination.
"It's the location - not too far for us to drive from Sydney, but it's also the fact it's dog-friendly," Ms Williams said.
Council's arts, culture and tourism manager Jacqui Hemsley said other tourism operators had reported an increase in last-minute holiday bookings from Sydneysiders deciding to travel north rather than to the fire-ravaged NSW South Coast.
"We've also had a couple of calls from operators who have had fire-related cancellations, where people are unable to get here due to the fires elsewhere in the state," Ms Hemsley said.
"In these cases we have been referring our last-minute customers to those operators."
For more information about tourism in Lake Macquarie, head to the revamped visitlakemac.com.au website.
Ms Hemsley said the new-look site featured streamlined accommodation searches, attraction profiles, maps, guides and destination information about different parts of the city.