Sydney mother Gail Edson with her children Rosie, 6, and Harry 10. Ms Edson, who has been visiting Byron Bay for 12 years, says the town has lost some of its gloss, with traffic congestion and higher prices becoming major turn-offs. However, she still enjoys the ‘sense of escapism’ the town offers.
Sydney mother Gail Edson with her children Rosie, 6, and Harry 10. Ms Edson, who has been visiting Byron Bay for 12 years, says the town has lost some of its gloss, with traffic congestion and higher prices becoming major turn-offs. However, she still enjoys the ‘sense of escapism’ the town offers. KATE O’NEILL

Visitors stay away from Byron

CANBERRA, Albury, Newcastle and Mackay have all come in ahead of Byron Bay on a list of Australian domestic travellers’ favourite destinations for 2009.

The list was based on the top 20 locations booked through online accommodation provider Wotif.com.

Byron Bay is listed at number 20, the same spot it held last year, behind other locations including Townsville (13), Coffs Harbour (16) and Port Macquarie (17).

In Wotif.com’s list of top NSW destinations, Byron Bay came in at number seven, just ahead of Wollongong (8), Wagga Wagga (9) and Dubbo (10).

The relatively low ranking came as no surprise to business group Byron United’s vice-president, James Lancaster, who said issues such as traffic management and council attempts to restrict holiday letting were turning tourists away.

“Eventually tourists are going to say: Why do I want to go to a place where no one wants me?” Mr Lancaster said.

“Until we get a council that recognises the positive contribution that tourism makes socially, environmentally and economically to the town, we’re going to languish in the polls.”

Visitors The Northern Star spoke to yesterday agreed traffic congestion was a major turn-off.

“The traffic today was horrific,” Debby Borghouts, of Redcliffe, north of Brisbane, said. “It has put us off coming again.”

Sydney visitor Gail Edson, who has been visiting Byron Bay for the past 12 years, said school holidays in Byron Bay were a nightmare.

“Pre-children, we’d come and visit in the off-season. I don’t like the busy-ness at this time of year, but you just do it because of the children,” she said.

This year, Ms Edson and her family booked accommodation close to town and the children brought their bicycles in an attempt to beat the traffic jams.

“We’re in an apartment on Shirley Street and we only take the car out with reluctance,” she said.

Ms Edson said that the atmosphere of Byron Bay had also changed and it was becoming too upmarket

“We used to come when it was hippie-ville and you could get an enormous vegie sandwich for $5,” she said.

“Now you go to a restaurant on a Tuesday night and you’re told you need a booking.”

The lack of ‘characters’ around town and public entertainment, like drummers on the beachfront, were also a loss. “But it’s still got a vibe and something that draws you in. There’s a sense of escapism here,” Ms Edson said.



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