Dubbo, centre of the universe, braces for royal fever

Let’s face it, when putting together a pacific tour for the most sought-after royal visitors in a generation, the immediate choice of stopover might not be Dubbo.

But the first stop on Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s upcoming tour is no surprise to local mayor Ben Shields, who laughingly argues: “It’s the centre of NSW, I call it the centre of the universe.”

Kensington Palace has confirmed the coolest royals in a generation will visit the central western NSW town as part of their Invictus Games tour in mid-October.

Local accommodation houses are bracing for what Shields predicts will be an extremely busy town during the official visit, but operators are confident they can cope.

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David Floyde of Cattleman’s Country Inn told Nine News: “We have a lot of hotels and motels here, we’ll have no trouble coping.

“We’ve had the Queen visit before”.

The city offers more than 4,000 beds ranging from five-star bed and breakfast through to pub-stay accommodation.

As a regional centre and half-way stop between Brisbane and Melbourne on the Newell Highway, accommodation demand is high.

Troy Grant, member for Dubbo, told Accomnews: “I welcome the announcement that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex will be visiting Dubbo whilst in Australia for the Invictus Games next month.

“I am thrilled they have chosen Dubbo as the regional destination of choice.”

The city, a five to six-hour drive west of Sydney, has a population of approximately 55,368 people and as the intersection of the Newell, Mitchell and Golden highways, it acts as a major road and rail freight hub to other parts of NSW and as a resource centre for outlying communities.

Its many attractions include the Taronga Western Plains Zoo, a centre of excellence in conservation which may have inspired Harry and Meghan, both keen conservationists, to stay locally.

While the itinerary is still being finalised, smart money is on royal couple staying the night at one of the zoo’s safari-style Animal View lodges. Featuring African-inspired décor with a king size bed and double bath, each lodge overlooks a paddock of roaming giraffe, zebra and eland.

Dubbo locals are hoping the royal visit will give a much-needed morale boost to struggling farmers in the region, with mayor Ben Shields acknowledging the visit probably has “a lot to do with the drought”.

The city has a surprisingly long history of hosting royals – Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwell visited in 2016 and Queen Elizabeth II toured the town in 1954 and again in 1992. Prince Edward also visited in 2006.

But while Dubbo is celebrating, other central west towns are feeling the hurt.

One local newspaper led with the line “Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle will snub Bathurst during their Australian visit in October and instead pay a royal visit to Dubbo”.

Bathurst was on a short list of centres vying for a royal visit following strong lobbying from local member Paul Toole – the disappointed MP conceding that at least the couple are coming to the central west.

They will touch down in Dubbo on 17 October.

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