PACKED: Main Beach, Byron Bay, during school holidays.
PACKED: Main Beach, Byron Bay, during school holidays. The Northern Star

Regional tourism supposed to double, but Byron already full

TOURISM spending in New South Wales is supposed to double by 2020, but the state's regional centres are nowhere near ready to handle the influx.

The latest Tourism Accommodation Australia report says the two-fold goal is "getting out of reach" and regional NSW needs serious work to pull its weight in the sector.

The NSW Government plans to increase overnight visitor expenditure statewide from $18.3 billion in 2009 to $36.6 billion in 2020.

The Northern Rivers sector netted $3.3 billion last financial year with 2.1 million overnight domestic visitors and 202,900 overnight visitors from abroad.

It's bad news for any plans to double tourism to Byron Bay, though - there is no room at the inn, or on the road.

BYRON TOURISM STATS 2013

  • Annual expenditure - $415 million
  • Employment - 2500 full-time jobs
  • Domestic overnight visitors - 44% from Queensland
  • International visitors - 30% from the UK
  • Total domestic overnight visitors - 526,000
  • Total international overnight visitors - 160,000
  • Total visitor nights last year - three million

A State Government plan to override Byron Shire Council and allow up to 1100 new homes and a shopping centre to be built on the town's already over-congested Ewingsdale Road will only make things worse.

Mayor Simon Richardson said if the NSW Government was serious about getting twice as many tourism dollars, it would upgrade the town's overwrought infrastructure immediately.

"The problem with funding from the tourism body, Destination NSW, is that they're only really interested in funding projects - festivals and events to draw people," he said.

"We're already the festival capital of the world and we do it brilliantly.

"The two biggest things visitors talk about being dissatisfied by in Byron are the traffic and amenities.

"We would rather funding to help with our roads, park-and-ride services and public toilets so they have a better experience; locals benefit, and the tourists want to come back."

Cr Richardson said Byron already took in 1.4 million tourists a year - mostly day-trippers - and the idea of "nudging three million" for a shire with just 30,000 residents was "just preposterous".

"We can handle a slight increase in our quieter times, or try to disperse those who come so they see more than just our bars and our beaches - so they experience our beautiful hinterland," he said.