ON BOARD: Jill Kelly is the new manager of the Byron Visitor Information Centre.
ON BOARD: Jill Kelly is the new manager of the Byron Visitor Information Centre.

Tough times for shire tourism

TIMES are tough in the tourism industry in the Byron Shire, but the new manager of the Byron Visitor Centre is keen to “engage” with local businesses and the community as an investment in their future.

Jill Kelly started in her management role a fortnight ago, and works at the centre four days a week.

She has a background in sales and marketing, and has worked at the Sydney Opera House, Sydney’s Luna Park, the Park Hyatt Hotel and the Ray Group which owns Salt at Casuarina.

She lived in Byron Bay for a time about 15 years ago, and “it’s a dream come true” to return.

She said the high Australian dollar and the effects of the global financial crisis had meant the tourism industry was suffering with a decline in international visitors.

But she said caravan parks in the shire had been doing well, which meant generally visitors had less money to spend, but also that the family-based domestic tourist market was strong.

“Through these tough times, a lot of people are trying to work out how they market themselves,” she said.

The visitor centre, she said, offered those businesses a chance to market themselves to the 220,000 visitors who walked through the door each year, with the volunteer workers at the CBD centre being ambassadors “representing their brand”.

The centre, which doesn’t receive government or council funding, currently has 400 members paying a fee of about $198 per year. The fee structure is on a sliding scale, though.

Ms Kelly said she wanted to work more closely with those member businesses.

And she said she also wanted to meet up with businesses that had not been able to afford to become members and come up with fee structure options.

And that’s an investment in their future, she said.

“When times are tough, people get caught up in their own businesses,” she said.


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