A voucher scheme to encourage people in NSW to splash out on wining and dining has kicked off in a bid to boost the pandemic-hit hospitality industry.
The first trial of the NSW government's hospitality stimulus program gives 500 residents $100 to spend at local businesses and cultural venues in Broken Hill and Sydney's Rocks district.
The first 'Dine and Discover' program trial provides four $25 vouchers to spend at 45 venues.
Two of the vouchers can be used at restaurants, cafes, pubs and other hospitality venues between Mondays and Thursdays. The other two are for entertainment and recreation venues like museums or live music.
The second trial, from February 22, will take in Sydney's CBD and northern beaches as well as the Bega Valley.
The statewide rollout of the program will begin next month.
Treasurer Dominic Perrottet admitted the stimulus program would be crucial when JobKeeper ended in late March.
"Many businesses in NSW have gone through a very difficult time, especially in the food and beverage, tourism sectors," Mr Perrottet told reporters on Thursday.
"It's going to be a very difficult year - we know the JobKeeper program will finish up in March and we want to make sure as many people transition from that program into paid wages, we want to support local businesses."
Vouchers will be provided through the Service NSW app, which is already required for checking in at hospitality venues.
Only businesses registered for the program can accept the vouchers.
The $500 million scheme was the centrepiece of the NSW government's November budget in a bid to get people spending again.
"(Hospitality venues) were smashed early on in the piece and then we saw the broader effects of the pandemic, people moving away from the city, so they caught a double whammy," Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello said.
"This virus has a long way to run, we need to open up as much of the economy (as possible) ... this is not a cash handout, this is targeted investment."
The Sydney Business Chamber says the pandemic has decimated The Rocks which relies heavily on international tourists.
"In recent years The Rocks has become more known as a tourist precinct rather than a place for locals," executive director Katherine O'Regan said.
"But now with a hand up from the government to spend on food and cultural attractions, this is a great opportunity to rediscover the wonderful history, architecture and laneways that this iconic precinct offers," she said.
The NSW Labor opposition said the government should hurry up and implement the voucher program statewide, rather than conducting trials.
Shadow Treasurer Walt Secord said other states like Tasmania had already rolled out hospitality stimulus measures.
"We want to see these vouchers helping businesses in desperate need. Businesses see through the charade of so-called `trials'. They just want help," Mr Secord said in a statement.