Nightmare for industry as tourists drop by 1.2 million
A NEW draft strategy was due to be placed on public exhibition in March, but when the COVID-19 pandemic left the tourism industry in a dire state, Byron Shire Council put things on hold.
Seven months on, the council has now placed the draft Sustainable Visitation Strategy on public exhibition and the community have been urged to have their say.
The strategy has been designed to help encourage the shire's visitor economy to exist in harmony with local residents and their values, to protect the shire's natural environment, celebrate its cultural diversity.
"We could have gone ahead and put the SVS out for comment (in March) but at that time we had no tourism industry at all - it had literally been shut down overnight with no one having any idea about what the future would look like," mayor Simon Richardson said.
"We decided to put the SVS on hold while staff talked to local businesses about the impact of COVID-19 and until we could get an idea of what recovery might look like both domestically and internationally."
To accompany the draft strategy, the council's staff have drafted a Resilience Discussion Paper which considers the impact of the pandemic on local visitor numbers.
It also looks ahead at the shire's anticipated recovery.
The Byron Shire boasted 2.4 million visitors in 2019 and if COVID-19 had not occurred, that figure was predicted to increase to 2.6 million.
Tourism numbers are expected to be down about 1.2 million this year.
"Because more than 90 per cent of visitors to the Byron Shire are domestic travellers with 78 per cent being day trippers from south east Queensland, Byron Shire could find its tourism industry recovering fairly quickly although this is entirely dependent on how COVID-19 plays out," Cr Richardson said.
"What we want people to do now is to read the draft SVS alongside the Resilience Discussion Paper and get back to us with comments."
The draft strategy, which came out of the Talking Future Tourism project, was two years' work in the making.
Talking Future Tourism drew thousands of responses from the community.
The draft strategy and discussion paper can be viewed on the council's website. Submissions close on November 27.