Thousands of tourists caught up in the "mass evacuation" of the South Coast have been recognised in NSW Parliament, as part of a plea for visitors to return to the bushfire ravaged region.
South Coast MP Shelley Hancock - one of several members of parliament who directly experienced the fire crisis - used part of her speech this week during the NSW Parliament condolence motion to recognise tourists.
"Usually at this time of year, during the summer holidays, our communities are cursing the lines of traffic coming down the Princes Highway to visit us," she said.
"We love them and we love them spending in our businesses. We welcome them with open arms.
"Yes, we complain that the supermarkets are too full, that there are queues, that there is too much traffic on the highway and that there is gridlock through Milton.
"But what did we do to the tourists? We drove them away.
"We made them go for their own safety and so RFS resources could be concentrated on saving our towns and the lives of our locals.
"We drove them away in a mass evacuation the like of which I had never seen in my life before."
Ms Hancock said she did not know how the tourists had endured being stuck in the middle of the emergency, as they were forced out of the region on New Year's Eve.
"We're sorry to you tourists, for what we did to you for your own safety. But boy, we want you back."
She said many of the "tourist meccas" - like Huskisson, the central Shoalhaven and places like Rick Stein at Bannisters and Cupitt's Winery - were open for business.
"We need to understand the situation in townships like Milton," she said.
"The flames have not hit there but every business is down 70 per cent, if not more, on the income needed to take it through to the next tourist season-to next summer."
"You will be confronted with what you see south of Island Point Road and driving around Conjola Park," she said. "... But please keep driving. Stop in Milton, stop at the shops, and drive to Ulladulla and Mollymook. Stay a few nights and spend your money because, as a community, we are shattered."