Surfers making tourism waves
KIERAN HALLGATE is part of a new breed of traveller making waves in the tourist industry.
After finishing his psychology degree in England in 2007, Kieran headed for Jefferys Bay in South Africa, lured by the promise of great surf and better weather.
“I actually cancelled my round-the-world ticket to stay there and surf. Eventually I heard about Byron Bay, this nice little surf town that was pretty chilled out, so I came here.
“I just love it. I live at the Arts Factory Lodge and surf four or five times a week.
“I hope to stay until Christmas or the New Year and see what happens. After that maybe I'll go back and do a psych masters.”
According to a new State Government report, Catching the Wave, Kieran represents a growing trend in Australian tourism and is one of 288,000 international tourists who came here specifically for the surf last year alone. That figure has risen by 53 per cent in the past four years.
NSW Tourism Minister Jodi McKay hopes to capitalise on the growth with a new surf tourism website and a campaign designed to target surfers by advertising in overseas surfing magazines.
The Government also wants to work with local councils to take advantage of the boom.
Byron Shire deputy mayor Basil Cameron was keen to hear more about the concept saying that on face value it seemed to satisfy Byron's tourism management plan.
“The really important thing to take out of our plan is that Byron Shire wants tourists and visitors who are sympathetic to local values,” he said.
“Clearly surfing is a very important part of Byron culture and it could be a great fit.
“I'd be interested to hear some concrete ideas on how we might achieve that.”
The report showed that NSW was poised to gain the most from this new market with the most surf-friendly beaches and almost half of Australia's surf schools.
It also contains five of Australia's seven surf reserves, including Lennox Head.