INTERNATIONAL visitors to the Northern Rivers region want experiences that will “immerse them in the local culture”, says Northern Rivers Tourism chief executive Russell Mills.
And there is also a growing trend towards nature-based experiences and eco-tourism.
Mr Mills spent four days in Melbourne last week at the Australian Tourism Exchange, the biggest tourism trade show in the southern hemisphere.
He said it was important for the region to have a presence at the event to ensure visitor numbers were maintained.
“About 223,000 international visitors come here every year and they make a significant contribution to our economy,” he said.
“We get about 90 per cent of our international visitors from the UK, New Zealand, continental Europe and the USA.”
Mr Mills admitted that many people were interested in the region because Byron Bay was so well known.
“Byron Bay is a very valuable calling card. People have heard of it and they always react positively. But Byron is by no means the be all and end all of this region, and people are now realising that we have a lot more to offer.”
New trends identified at the event included visitors who wanted “immersion in the local lifestyle”.
“People want to go to the local markets or the local pub,” Mr Mills said.
“Experienced travellers in particular want authenticity.
“People don't want a packaged holidays any more. They want to dig deeper.”
Northern Rivers Tourism promoted a wide range of positive tourism experiences to be had in the region, including the beach lifestyle, nature and wilderness, health and wellbeing, regional food, arts and events and market culture.
“It is pretty rare for one region to be able to offer all of that,” Mr Mills said.
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