Tourists big winners in Byron price slump
By MEGAN KINNINMENT
FANCY a bargain basement price for a Wategos Beach holiday this summer? The vacant signs are out at Byron Bay's upmarket holi- day homes this year, and while local real estate agents may be wringing their hands, tourists are the big winners. Business has been so slow for agents in Byron Bay this Christmas that many have been slashing their prices on luxury pads just to fill them, while lower-priced local cara- van parks have people lining up to set up camp. "We've been flat out," Sherie Shaw, at Suffolk Park Holiday Park, said. "We must have knocked back a thousand calls. The phone's been ringing 40 or 50 times a day. "It's mostly young people looking for New Year's Eve accommodation, but we're booked out until January 15." Across town the phones have been mysteriously quiet at Byron Bay First National Real Estate, with property manager Virginia Kane saying the agency had been forced to slash their prices to get people into their holiday homes at Christmas. "We've had to drop our prices to school holiday rates to fill places," she said. "We've had houses at Wa- tegos that would normally cost $5000 a week to rent go- ing for $3000. "Things were going really well earlier in the year, then the phones just stopped ring- ing.
"What's happening is we are getting only one really big week in Byron Bay." Ms Kane said her agency had surveyed people to find out where the tourists were going ? and the answer is Fi- ji, Bali or Port Douglas. "People have got brave enough to go back to Bali now. Fiji was even more pop- ular," she said. At LJ Hookers Byron Bay, property manager Kerryn Cooper was also discounting rates for holiday accommoda- tion.
"We're willing to negotiate on prices," she said. The agency has vacant beachfront units, sleeping four or six people, on Lawson Street that can be picked up for $200-$350 a night. "Things have been a lot later to kick off this year," she said. "The crowds are changing. There's fewer families and a lot more younger people. "There's also a lot more new units on offer, and with more choice it becomes more competitive.