Tourism sector counts flood costs
By MARY MANN
AS IF the clean-up wasn't enough, Northern Rivers businesses have lost millions of tourism dollars because of the floods which have ravaged the region.
Motels have had bookings cancelled, restaurants have been deserted and local attractions have had few visitors, with business owners struggling to deal with the massive blow to their livelihoods.
Northern Rivers Tourism chief executive Russell Mills, who is surveying 1000 local businesses on the impact of the floods, said it was still too early to put a figure on the loss. However, he said it was 'definitely in the millions'.
"People see the rising waters on the news and local businesses are suffering because no one is coming," Mr Mills said.
"There has been a lot of damage and loss reported.
"Once we finalise the survey, if it is found there has been significant loss we will look at what funding can be accessed as part of a recovery campaign."
Mr Mills said almost $1 million in tourism money had been forgone simply because two junior sporting events had been cancelled in Lismore due to the heavy rain.
The baseball and cricket events, which were supposed to run from January 5 to 12, were expected to bring $954,000 to the region from spectators, players and their families eating, sleeping and shopping on the Northern Rivers during that time.
Mr Mills said Crystal Castle at Mullumbimby was down by about 50 per cent on its tours from this time last year, and Angourie Rainforest Resort near Yamba had reported a loss of $60,000.
Mish Shakti, manager of Crystal Castle, said while her area was not flooded, tourists had the perception it was so they didn't visit the area.
"It's a bit sad it has happened right in our peak season," she said.
Northern Rivers Tourism needs more local business operators to complete the survey. To take part, contact Mr Mills on 6688 6217.
In Ballina, local chamber of commerce spokesperson Nadia Eliott-Burgess said some members had reported having staff stranded and unable to make it into work, and one member had reported a major impact on the mental health of staff.
Meanwhile, the Northern Rivers NSW Business Chamber is calling for any businesses that suffered infrastructure loss as a result of the floods and heavy rain to contact Sharon Cadwallader at Ballina.
Business chamber representatives will be also doorknocking the region to collect information about infrastructure loss, with the aim of collating the results and presenting them to relevant State and Federal ministers.
It is also organising a tourism campaign to bring more people back to the Northern Rivers. Call Sharon Cadwallader on 6686 8282.