WHILE our furry, eucalyptus leaf-munching friends were undoubtedly the major winners out of last week's Gunnedah Koala Sanctuary announcement, local businesses and the tourism sector weren't far behind.
Gunnedah Shire Council (GSC) mayor, Councillor Jamie Chaffey, said once complete the park would welcome 70,000 people per annum and deliver millions to the local economy.
Obviously that would be a huge boost to the town's owners and operators, who have since come out in support of the project.
Patricia Wilks, who is co-owner of the Billabong Motel, is excited by the prospect of extra visitors coming to town on a regular basis and is pleased the region will have its own major attraction.
"It would be fabulous because we have many people coming through asking 'where can we see a koala'," she said.
"And I've lived in Port Macquarie and there's koalas everywhere, but they did have the koala hospital and that was a great drawcard.
"So I think it will be fabulous for Gunnedah and it would be fabulous for the hotels and the eateries and the shops."
Gunnedah and District Chamber of Commerce president Juliana McArthur played down the rivalry with Port Macquarie, stating it could have the coastal tourists while Gunnedah took the inland travellers.
Like Ms Wilks, she is also pleased there is set to be plenty more of them once the sanctuary is built.
Ms McArthur said the chamber was supportive of the plans and is looking forward to Gunnedah being able to capitalise on its reputation as a koala hub.
"It's a good development for Gunnedah and one would hope for a smooth approval process and a swift construction so we can get to enjoy it and attract tourists and get people employed there as soon as possible," she stated.
Alongside council, the agency responsible for driving the tourism numbers up is CaPTA Group, who have entered into a partnership with GSC to run the park.
As the operators of Rainforestation Nature Park and Australian Butterfly Sanctuary - both in Kuranda, Queensland - as well as Cairns ZOOM and Wildlife Dome and Wildlife Habitat Port Douglas, they have experience in the wildlife and tourism sectors.
Development manager Andrew Hearn is confident the organisation has the skills to heavily - and accurately - promote the sanctuary.
"The CaPTA Group has been 100 per cent focused on regional tourism for the last 40 years, that's well before Cairns was a major tourism destination," he said.
"In terms of promoting the park I think it's going to be very similar to what we do with a lot of our parks, our product up here is nearly identical to what is being considered down in Gunnedah and the way we will go about it is very similar as well."
He also spruiked the company's marketing team, who he said are all experienced in bolstering regional travel.
Even with some of the park's visitors being locals or stopping in during the day from elsewhere, there is likely to be a huge increase in demand for the local motels.
However Ms Wilks said the accommodation sector had the capacity to deal with it, and are always hoping for more customers.