In a "unique twist", businesses in the Tamworth region were feeling more confident at the turn of the year than they did the year before, with no pandemic.
A Business NSW survey outlined a sharp increase in business confidence, despite many facing the barrel of the no-country-music gun in January.
Business NSW regional manager Joe Townsend was struck by the difference, and attributed factors like the booking system to renewed confidence in business in the face of a looming lack of income normally provided by festival goers.
"I think the decision to cancel the festival last year was met with relief from a lot of people, because it was a clear cut decision that left no uncertainty for a lot of businesses," he said.
"Many hospitality businesses have told me that they are going steady with bookings, so they will still be OK with the latest cancellations of the smaller events."
He said what will have a lasting effect though, was a less than predicted boost over the Christmas season, attributed to snap decisions on border closures and lockdowns deterring would-be holiday makers.
"I think what will have had a bigger impact on these services is the restrictions introduced just before Christmas," he said.
"Accommodation and hospitality providers saw about 40 per cent of their bookings not come through, because travellers coming didn't know what would happen. That will have a lasting effect, something that happened last minute."
Accommodation and hospitality providers saw about 40 per cent of their bookings not come through, because travellers coming didn't know what would happen. That will have a lasting effect, something that happened last minute.Joe Townsend
The survey, conducted right across the state, showed that business confidence was positive for the first time since June 2018. Much of the survey was completed prior to the Christmas lockdown and border closures, which gave confidence a hit.
"The NSW Government has done a good job in listening to business needs and responding as soon as possible by easing restrictions and opening up communities," he noted.
"However, since the survey results were finalised, we've heard from business owners across the state about how quickly confidence can be eroded with swift decisions like lockdowns and border closures."
This first quarter of the calendar year will be crucial for many businesses, he said, as a number of government support packages get reduced, or come to a close.
"Despite overall increases in confidence, 23 per cent of businesses claim they are at a high risk of failure when supports such as JobKeeper, tax relief, interest waivers and other measures conclude," he explained.
He said the vulnerability will hang over the small business sector for much of the year and should be factored into government decisions about withdrawing support measures.
"The other clear signal from our survey is that an increasing number of businesses are looking to expand their capacity to meet demand, with more businesses prioritising expansion than planning to downsize their business," he said.
"However, businesses across the state are still reluctant to begin hiring."