Nathan Folkes, of Byron Bay's rain-hit Mojosurf and Dolphin Kayaking, is praying for a sunny, tourist-filled summer.
Nathan Folkes, of Byron Bay's rain-hit Mojosurf and Dolphin Kayaking, is praying for a sunny, tourist-filled summer. The Northern Star

Under the weather

AFTER a soggy six months, outdoor tourism operators on the Northern Rivers are praying the sun will come out next summer and attract more visitors to the region.

With fuel prices soaring and a grim international economic outlook, business and consumer confidence has tumbled. The additional hardship created by the recent wet weather just adds to the battle to stay afloat.

As the off-peak season starts, Byron Bay Dolphin Kayaking owner Nathan Folkes reflected on a season he'd sooner forget. His surfing tours have survived the bad weather, but the returns from his kayaking trips have taken a battering.

"With the surfing it's not too bad, because you can wack on a wetsuit rain, hail or shine," Mr Folkes said. "Our surfing, even through the adverse weather, still had some growth this year.

"But with the kayaking tours, we've definitely seen a drop of about 30 per cent from previous years over the season.

"Adverse weather means we can't really operate the kayaking, which creates a flow-on effect for the next season. If visitors have a great time, they rave on about it. If they don't then they might choose another destination or activity next time.

"On the kayaking side of things, we won't be posting a profit this year. Not being able to run the tours places a loss against our business and we just have to look forward to sunnier times."

Mr Folkes said Australian tourists only really impacted on tourism on the Northern Rivers over Christmas and Easter.

For the rest of the season, businesses relied on international travellers and the steady backpacker trade.

"We're looking at targeting a few new markets next summer so we're not dependent on just one," Mr Folkes said.

"But at the same time, it doesn't matter what we do as we're still dependent on the elements. The wet weather could tighten up the winter for everybody in town."

Byron Visitor Centre manager Katharine Myers had not noticed a big difference in the number of visitors to the region, but she was aware that some activities were cancelled due to rain.

"The rain always affects our industry as so much of tourism is weather-dependent," Ms Myers said.

"And where some businesses are losing out to the rain, others are benefiting from the weather, such as restaurants and video stores - it's not all doom and gloom."

Local weather watcher Arnold Vayo, who collects data for the Bureau of Meteorology, said the weather was becoming 'predictably unpredictable'.

"The rainfall this year is already 1130mm...and that's 90 per cent of the entire year's rainfall - just in six months," Mr Vayo said.

Temperature was also a factor.

"Last summer some places only hit about 25 days where the temperature was 30 degrees or above over the three months," Mr Vayo said.

"That's half the number of days that hit 30 degrees or higher for the same time the year before.

"Then you take the months of April and May. In some places the temperature was the coldest on record."


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