Demand almost more than one can bear

HOBART may have MONA, but North-East Tasmania's Bridestowe Lavender Farm has Bobbie the Bear.

The purple lavender and wheat-stuffed teddy bear heat pack has been available for three years, but only became an absolute ``must have'' with Chinese tourists after a celebrity Shanghai trendsetter went public with her ownership, saying Bobbie was her favourite bedtime companion.

Bridestowe sales and marketing manager Bronwyn Bishop said that Tourism Tasmania staff in Hong Kong and Singapore recognised Bobbie's attraction and started using it in promos.

``That was in July and Bobbie's gone viral since,'' she said.

``But things got a little stressful between Christmas Eve and yesterday when we ran out of stock for a few days.

``People were coming in and begging for a bear _ the reaction to having none had to be seen to be believed.

``We had to tell them Bobbie had gone on a well-deserved holiday _ he came back today, thank goodness.

``Our phones were in meltdown, the emails were in meltdown and we had to take it off our website.

``Chinese tourists actually fly to Tasmania and come to Bridestowe, to avoid buying a fake _ we've had people come out here on the one bus a day, just to get one.''

Bridestowe owner Robert Ravens said that the fight with counterfeiters would be won from next week.

``Each bear will come with a tag around his neck with a scratchie attached, and people can scratch the scratchie and check the number on our website to ensure the bear they bought is not a fake,'' he said.

``The lavender was slow to bloom this season because of the cool, wet weather, but the upside will be a picking and viewing season that was likely to stretch to the end of February.''

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