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Special report: The $800m view that benefits whole region

Byron Bay lighthouse
Byron Bay lighthouse David Nielsen

TOURISM delivers a whopping $800 million to the Northern Rivers each year, with the lion's share of that revenue going to Byron Shire, the latest tourism figures show.

The tourism figures for 92 LGAs across NSW, released by Destination NSW this week, show that for the year ending September 2013, Byron earned $415 million from tourism, more than double any of the other four Northern Rivers local government areas.

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Ballina was the next top earner at $182 million, followed by Lismore at $111 million, Richmond Valley at $76 million and Kyogle at $16 million.

The majority of our international tourists came from the United Kingdom, Europe and Northern America, while overnight domestic travellers were predominately from Queensland.

Executive officer of the North Coast Destination Network Belinda Novicky said the figures showed the industry was recovering well from the downturn following the global financial crisis, helped domestically by low interest rates.

"Queensland is a really important target market for us," she said.

"The Northern Rivers is close and affordable for Queensland visitors and they love our alternative character and green lifestyle."

Not surprisingly, eating out remained a top activity for tourists, but they were also spending more.

"People have to eat when they are on holidays, but we're seeing the amount they spend on eating out is increasing," Ms Novicky said.

On the whole balance sheet, we lose more to tourism than we gain

Byron Shire mayor Simon Richardson

Food and art would play an important role in a campaign to attract more tourists in 2014, she said, with the Northern Rivers being the showcase of NSW destinations for locally grown food and artisan culture.

While Byron Shire earned nearly half-a-billion dollars from tourism last year, little of that made its way back to the coffers of Byron Shire Council, said Mayor Simon Richardson.

"The only revenue stream the council has from tourism is two caravan parks and the possibility of increased commercial rates," he said.

"On the whole balance sheet, we lose more to tourism than we gain.

"Our shire receives more visitors per year than the entire state of Tasmania.

"If Byron is so loved, I would like to think we could be abundant from this industry, rather than struggling to deal with its impacts."

Cr Richardson said either visitors or locals had to pay for the services needed to accommodate 1.36 million tourists per year.

A voluntary visitor contribution, or bed tax, is being trialled by the council this year at its two caravan parks, while a paid parking scheme is being developed.

"At some point the community has to come together and look at all of the options," he said.

"Tourism is draining us as a community."

TOURISM FIGURES

The laser show at the Big Prawn in Ballina on Friday night. Photo Doug Eaton / The Northern Star
The laser show at the Big Prawn in Ballina on Friday night. Photo Doug Eaton / The Northern Star Doug Eaton

BALLINA SHIRE

Total visitors (overnight and domestic daytrip): 670,000

Total spend (overnight and domestic daytrip): $182m

Purpose of visit: Holiday

Top five origins of international visitors:

  1. United Kingdom
  2. New Zealand
  3. Germany
  4. US
  5. France

Top accommodation used: Home of friend or relative (no payment required)

Age group of visitors: International: 15-34 (44%); domestic overnight travellers: 25-34 (20%), 65-plus (21%)

Top origin of domestic travellers: Queenslanders 38%

Favourite activities of domestic overnighters:

  1. Eat out at restaurants
  2. Visit friends and relatives
  3. Go to the beach (including swimming)
  4. Go shopping (pleasure)
  5. General sightseeing
Evans Head Airforce Beach
Evans Head Airforce Beach David Nielsen

RICHMOND VALLEY

Total visitors (overnight and domestic daytrip): 314,000

Total spend (overnight and domestic daytrip): $76m

Purpose of visit: Holiday/visit friends and relatives

Top accommodation used: Relatives and friends/caravan park/camping

Age group of visitors: Domestic overnight travellers: 45-65 and older

Top origin of domestic travellers: Queenslanders 42%

Favourite activities of domestic overnighters:

  1. Visit friends and relatives
  2. Eat out at restaurants
  3. Pubs, clubs, discos
  4. Go to beach (including swimming)
  5. General sightseeing
Border Ranges National Park from the Pinnacle.
Border Ranges National Park from the Pinnacle.

KYOGLE

Total visitors (overnight visitors): 38,000

Total spend (overnight visitor spend) $16m

TOURISM FIGURES

LISMORE

Total visitors (overnight and domestic daytrip): 603,000

Total spend (overnight and domestic daytrip) $111m

Purpose of visit: Holiday/visiting friends and relatives

Top five origins of international visitors:

  1. United Kingdom
  2. Germany
  3. US
  4. France
  5. New Zealand

Top accommodation used: Home of friend or relative (no payment required)

Age group of visitors: International: 15-34; domestic overnight travellers: 45-65

Top origin of Domestic travellers: Queenslanders 38%

Favourite activities of domestic overnighters:

  1. Visit friends and relatives
  2. Eat out at restaurants
  3. Pubs, clubs, discos
  4. Go shopping (pleasure)
  5. General sightseeing
The Pass at Byron Bay, NSW.
The Pass at Byron Bay, NSW. Contributed

BYRON SHIRE

Total visitors (overnight and domestic daytrip): 1.36m

Total spend (overnight and domestic daytrip) $415m

Purpose of visit: Holiday 93%

Top five origins of international visitors:

  1. United Kingdom
  2. Germany
  3. Scandinavia
  4. US
  5. Canada

Top accommodation used: Backpacker/hostel 43%

Age group of visitors: International: 15-35; domestic overnight travellers: 15-24 44%

Top origin of domestic travellers: Queenslanders

Favourite activities of domestic overnighters:

  1. Eat out at restaurants
  2. Go to the beach
  3. Visit friends and relatives
  4. Go shopping
  5. Pubs, clubs, discos
Brad Keen, of London, is holidaying in Byron Bay for a few days. Photo : Mireille Merlet-shaw/The Northern Star
Brad Keen, of London, is holidaying in Byron Bay for a few days. Photo : Mireille Merlet-shaw/The Northern Star Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Why Brad crossed the globe to visit Byron Bay

WITH Britain topping the list for origins of international visitors to Byron Shire, Londoner Brad Keen was yesterday enjoying a typical tourist experience in Byron Bay: sunbathing at Main Beach.

The 26-year-old gas engineer surprised his girlfriend with the ultimate birthday gift: a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Australia to visit her sister who lives here.

"We arrived in Australia on Monday and we'll be here in Byron Bay for a few more days, but we're also planning to visit Hamilton Island and Sydney," Mr Keen said.

"We're staying with my girlfriend's aunty.

"I've wanted to visit Australia since I was a kid; it's so different to London

"I have a few friends who have travelled to Byron Bay before and I heard it was a chilled-out, hippified place.

"We went to Surfers Paradise as well, but Byron Bay is so relaxed, it's a better place to chill out.

"I've been very lazy since I've arrived. I've been eating, sleeping and sunbathing.

"We will be here in Australia for three weeks."

Topics:  byron bay, tourism




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