THE North Coast Tourism Awards will be announced this weekend at the historic Trial Bay Gaol at South West Rocks and The Numbers have a lot to say about this jewel in the crown of Northern Rivers industries.
The North Coast section of our region is ranked third highest in the number of overnight domestic visitors in Australia, with only Sydney and Melbourne coming before us.
It is not surprising that tourism accounts for 7% of the Northern Rivers workforce, which is significantly higher than the NSW average of 4.6% employed in tourism, and the Australian average of 4.3%.
In 2011 to 2012, more than 5 million visitors injected almost $1.5 billion into our local economy, which contributed 3.4% to our Gross Regional Product (compared to 2.9% in NSW and 2.3% in Australia).
However, as a reminder that we must never rest on our laurels, The Numbers tell us that while the GRP contribution rate from tourism has remained steady in NSW and across Australia, in Northern Rivers it has dropped by 0.5% over the past three years.
It is not clear from The Numbers why this contribution has fallen, though it suggests an opportunity to revive the highest standards of customer service, and to invest in innovative tourism attractions that align with our reputation as a clean, green, healthy lifestyle destination.
For the next week, however, it is time to focus on what we are doing well, and with 39 finalists in Saturday's North Coast Tourism Awards - as diverse as Alstonville Country Cottages, Byron Bay Bluesfest, CanGoEveryWhere.com.au - there is much to celebrate.
* Kimmaree Thompson is CEO of Regional Development Australia (Northern Rivers)