Some of the 300 American audience members who accompanied Oprah Winfrey on her trip to Australia pose for the national media after taking to the sea in kayaks at Byron Bay’s Main Beach.
Some of the 300 American audience members who accompanied Oprah Winfrey on her trip to Australia pose for the national media after taking to the sea in kayaks at Byron Bay’s Main Beach. Dominic Feain

Oprah hype fails to bring tourists

IT WAS dubbed the Oprah effect.

But the American talk show queen's visit to Byron Bay has been a fizzer for local tourism operators.

Now Northern Rivers Tourism will spend more than $1 million this year giving the industry a boost.

Chief executive Russell Mills said he expected to see a double-digit decline in profits for the first quarter of 2011 when the official figures came out.

“We are expecting figures to be way down,” said Mr Mills, who blamed a kick-on effect from the Queensland floods.

“The downturn will almost certainly be because of the flood pretty much decimating one of our major markets. Northern NSW was also badly affected by the weather.”

Northern Rivers Tourism, with its industry partners and Tourism NSW, will now take major initiatives to address a soft tourism market and an expected poor result.

These include:

  • A $770,000 marketing program involving 13 tourism industry operators;
  • A North Coast Short Breaks campaign. This is part of Tourism NSW's $ 1 million flood recovery program to recover business that never eventuated over summer.
  • A regional map guide being produced by Northern Rivers Local Tourism Associations and Northern Rivers Tourism.
  • Legendary Pacific Coast – an interactive website and iPhone App encouraging visitors from Sydney and Brisbane to travel the Legendary Pacific Coast;
  • Byron Bay and Beyond – a $303,000 international marketing program targeting international visitors from United Kingdom, New Zealand, Europe, the United States and, for the first time, Malaysian and Singaporean families and young couples - in partnership with Air Asia

Gerald Searle, from Ballina Lakeside Holiday Park, said the park had been reasonably lucky in that it hadn't experienced the downturn he knew other operators in Ballina were having.

He said those in the local tourism industry welcomed the initiatives by Northern Rivers Tourism, which he said would provide very important support.



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