Regional slump in tourism
By PATRIZIA REIMER and RACHEL AFFLICK
A BROKEN up holiday season is the latest obstacle for embattled Northern Rivers tourism.
According to Tourism Ballina Inc president Paul Ferguson visitor numbers are down over Easter, normally one of the busiest times of the year.
"Were still recovering from the rains. Ballina's been dead ever since then," said Mr Ferguson, who is also the owner of the Colonial Motel.
"Four months down the track and Ballina hasn't recovered at all. This Easter is no better.
"I did a run through all the accommodation houses in Ballina and only two motels were full. I was lucky enough to be one of the full ones."
Mr Ferguson said there were a lot of reasons why the region's tourism has not picked up, like some hoped it would, over Easter.
He believes people outside the area have the idea it is still flooded or rain-affected. He also blames the split of the school holidays from Easter.
His feelings are shared by co-owner of the Summerland Surf School at Evans Head, Lorraine Freeden, who expects to be busier when the holidays start next month.
But Liane Battersby, owner of Evans Head Pacific Motel, said it had been a full-house all weekend. Ms Battersby said bookings for the school holidays were slow.
Gerald Searle, manager of the Ballina Lakeside Holiday Park, says tourism operators need to diversify to handle downturns, no matter what causes them.
His business did well over the summer when others were taking cancellations. And this Easter has also been a bumper season for the park.
"In Ballina you've got to weatherproof yourself any way you can. Last Christmas, for example, we put on some movies on the big screen and purchased some games and lent them to people for free."
Paul Ferguson says ultimately people from outside the region need to know that all is back to normal.
"We need the help of the powers that be, like Northern Rivers Tourism, who are working with the government to get it back to how it was.
"And we need it done quickly."