No thanks, Byron Bay: cashed-up schoolies heading overseas
SEEDY old "toolies" and dangerous drinking is driving cashed-up schoolies away from Byron Bay, favouring controlled overseas destinations offered by youth travel operators.
This month, during the peak of schoolies booking season for 2016, student travel provider Unleashed Travel sold 1400 overseas schoolies packages in the first 15 minutes of release.
Tanaya Narbey, a former student at Mount St Patrick College, Murwillumbah, last year shunned Byron Bay festivities in favour of a more "controlled" Fiji paradise.
The 2014 graduate paid $2300 for an all-inclusive party on the white beaches of Plantation Island, devoid of "toolies" - older guys who gatecrash school leaver celebrations in Byron Bay and on the Gold Coast.
"The idea of Byron or Gold Coast didn't appeal. There is a perception that it's not safe and fun," she said.
"You hear those stories of people being thrown off balconies and all the drugs.
"I made up my mind about Byron Bay after going to schoolies there in Year 11. There wasn't much going on, it wasn't organised.
"There were older men and I suppose there were older women too."
Unleashed Travel's growth figures reveal a spike in island hopping in Fiji, already up 35% on last year's bookings. European coach travel was also proving popular, as was the company's Vanuatu Adventure Grad Trip, highlighting an adventurous shift in the priorities of youth when it came to celebrating the end of their schooling.
"We've had a waiting list of students build up in the two-to-three weeks pre-launch, and it was encouraging to see that so many teens, having heard so much about the anti-social behaviour at the Gold Coast and in Bali, have chosen to experience new cultures and more rewarding holidays," Jot Lynas, CEO of Unleashed Travel said.
"The strong bookings for our 2016 packages are proof of that.
"Not every teen wants to spend a whole week avoiding creepy toolies and nursing a constant hangover, which is why these packages are becoming so popular."