Tourism takes triple whammy
THE loss of Splendour in the Grass, declining domestic tourism numbers and the high Australian dollar are combining to deliver a “triple whammy” to Byron Bay’s struggling tourism market.
Adding to the town’s woes are a weak retail sector Australia-wide and uncertainty about the impact of the carbon tax.
Byron Bay Chamber of Commerce, Byron United, president Sevegne Newton said she was “gravely concerned” about what was happening to Byron Bay businesses and the flow on effects to the community.
She said Byron Bay was not facing anything different to the rest of the country, but was a microcosm of what was happening nation wide.
Empty shops are dotted throughout the town and Ms Newton said she knew of business owners facing the loss of their homes.
“We need to acknowledge and accept that our whole economy is based on tourism,” she said.
“It’s not about being overrun. It’s about being welcoming.
“Every landscape gardener, every electrician, teacher, nurse, depends on our tourism-driven economy.”
Business owners approached by The Northern Star named high rents, a drop in backpacker numbers, a lack of parking and the lack of events in town as contributors to the current situation.
Splendour in the Grass, which was held at Woodford at the weekend, was widely regarded as the key to avoiding the winter “trough” and its loss has been devastating.
Millions and millions of dollars had just gone to Queensland, Ms Newton said, and she wants to see a State government decision on the festival’s application to return to Byron as soon as possible.
Although she expects the pain to get worse before it gets better, Ms Newton said there were some positive signs emerging.
She was aware of more than 20 businesses whose landlords had recently agreed to keep rents at the same level or lower, in an effort to keep shops occupied.
This week’s Writers’ Festival was a glimmer of hope, she said.