Byron mayor Simon Richardson.
Byron mayor Simon Richardson.

Diversity will be critical for shire’s pandemic recovery

SIMON Richardson has acknowledged how hard the Byron Shire is likely to be hit by the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

But it’s not all doom and gloom for the mayor, who stressed the shire was about more than just tourism during the council’s planning meeting today.

Early on in the pandemic, Destination Byron president David Jones estimated Byron’s visitor economy could bring in just 20 per cent of what’s typical for the Easter period but by the end of March, he’d revised that to “one to two per cent”.

The shire usually has 80 to 90 per cent occupancy rates of accommodation houses in April.

“However, it’s worth acknowledging we are different to places like Cairns in the sense we aren’t nearly as dependent on international visitors,” Cr Richardson said.

Wategos beach in Byron Bay.
Wategos beach in Byron Bay.

Cr Richardson said those in the tourism sector sounded confident Byron, among the last to be hit hard by the health crisis, would be among the fastest to bounce back,

“We will be one of the first to get back up on our feet,” he said.

Being “one of the wellness capitals of Australia”, Cr Richardson predicted many might want to flock to the shire for a healthy holiday once travel bans are lifted.

“We are more than tourism but we’re also (reliant on) the creative industries and that’s an area (that has) had ridiculously low support,” he said.

“We’ve been dogged in trying to diversity.

“We need to diversify beyond tourism and (be) more resilient than tourism.”

He said innovators, those working in the digital economy and sustainable agriculture would be among the groups to help bolster the region’s economic resilience.

“We need to keep pushing to try to create spaces to allow that to occur,” he said.


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