HIGH tourist numbers on the NSW North Coast revealed in new State Government figures are no fluke, North Coast Destination Network co-chair Cameron Arnold says.
New figures show international visitors are flocking to the North Coast, with almost 300,000 overseas tourists visiting the region in the past year, with more than half (183,000) going to Byron Bay.
The number of foreign holiday makers to have visited the North Coast in the 12 months to June is up almost 10% on the same period last year.
It makes the North Coast easily the state's most popular destination outside of Sydney, almost double its nearest competitor in the Hunter Valley.
Mr Arnold said the figures came off the back of years of international marketing and the joining together of the entire North Coast from Forster to Tweed as a single regional tourism body.
Mr Arnold said while Byron Bay remained the major market for foreigners, tourists were increasingly more likely to explore the region and visit the out-of-the-way places.
"The growth is definitely coming from so-called free independent travellers who are often renting vehicles," he said.
"They won't just come and do the norm.
"They're definitely a bit more adventurous and they will do a lot of research and most of their bookings online."
Tourists from the UK top the list of visitors, followed by Germany, the Scandinavian countries, then the US and Canada. The Asian market is also flourishing.
""We've seen huge growth out of Malaysia and Singapore," Mr Arnold said.
"The stories we've heard from some local operators is they'll have Asian visitors who will just rock up in areas like Forster, Taree, and Bellingen."
"They're interested in seeing something different.
"Their market has shifted from away from a shopping experience to a nature-based experience. And we're in a really good position to capitalise on that."
A symposium called Byron Tourism 2020 will analyse tourism trends for the next five years. The symposium will be held at The Farm from 1-5pm on Friday, September 18.