FAMILIES READY TO RECLAIM QUIET COAST
BYRON BAY'S bid to ditch its party town tag seems to be paying off with families ready to reclaim the town.
Accommodation outlets in the town, which are usually turning people away at this time of year, yesterday had 'vacancy' signs up.
Some said they were dropping their prices by up to 50 per cent in a bid to fill their rooms for the weekend.
They blamed the Byron Shire Council's plans for low-key, family-oriented New Year's Eve celebrations, high petrol prices and the Rex Hunt saga.
Some also blamed the letting of private homes to holiday-makers.
However, while motel owners weren't smiling, Holly Smith was celebrating the fact her family would be able to herald in the New Year at one of the country's iconic beaches.
The Broadwater mother-of-two said the last time she spent New Year's Eve at Byron Bay it was a nightmare for young kids.
"There was broken glass everywhere, and too many people," she said. "The new plans for Byron sound great."
Cindy Robertson, from Lord Byron Resort, said it was ironic that in the year 2000 Byron Bay was advertised as the place to be, but this year people were being told not to come.
"We're normally booked out for New Year, but we've got vacancies this year," she said.
Byron Shire mayor Jan Barham said it was holiday letting that was 'taking away from legitimate operators'.
She said she had received abusive phone calls from tourists who had spent up to $5000 a week for holiday accommodation, only to find it substandard compared with the price they had paid.
On the Rex Hunt issue, Cr Barham agreed the television personality's comment that Byron Bay was not a safe place to visit could have influenced people's choice of holiday venue.
"That's why I spoke out at the time. It was a damning comment," she said.
Some Ballina accommodation providers, who said they usually benefited from Byron Bay overflow, reported that casual custom was scarce this year.
Michael Fellner, manager of the luxury Ballina Manor, said he usually had far more walk-ins.
But at the budget end of the market, the Ballina Lakeside Holiday Park was turning people away.
The Shaws Bay Caravan Park was also doing better this year, assistant manager Natalie Skillings said.
Mid-range motels and apartments reported mixed success.
Bruce Cadwallader, co-owner of Leisure Lee Apartments, believed higher petrol prices and high mortgages were keeping holidaymakers closer to home.