TOURISM INDUSTRY: President of Destination Byron, David Jones
TOURISM INDUSTRY: President of Destination Byron, David Jones Contributed

Why Byron day-visitor numbers keep rising

ANNUAL day-visitor numbers to our shire hit a record 1.1 million late last year.

The research summary can be found on the Destination Byron's website.

Day visitors are the biggest contributor to our shire's visitor numbers.

Our thriving visitor economy welcomes about 2.24 million visitors each year.

In comparison, Noosa welcomes about 2.3 million visitors a year.

Byron's visitor numbers consist of three separate demand drivers: Domestic-Drive Market - 1.12 million visitors mostly from Southeast Queensland; Domestic Overnight market - 906,000 visitors; and International Overnight market - 213,000 visitors.

Day-visitor numbers have grown a staggering 415,000 since the year ending September 2014 (a 58 per cent increase), with 43 per cent coming from the Gold Coast, 31 per cent from Northern NSW and 23 per cent from Brisbane.

So why the growth?

The population of SE Queensland currently is about 3.5 million and is estimated to hit 5.8 million by 2046 (source: News Corp). All ocean-front land between Noosa and the Tweed River has essentially been built on except for nature reserves.

This growing population bubble is becoming more and more urban and they're going to need to escape this environment on weekends.

Their most immediate options are Noosa to the north and Byron to the south.

Byron shire faces the same challenge as Noosa but their day-visitor numbers are said to be slightly higher than Byron's.

The mayor of Noosa Tony Wellington said: "There's a sort of a building tsunami of daytrippers. Our issue is how to deal with this great driving-tourist market.”

Noosa has gone as far as creating a sustainable tourism stakeholder reference group and has engaged a behaviour change expert to tackle the challenge.

Byron shire's poor underlying infrastructure is only worsened by vehicles that are here for a few hours only.

Research indicates that these day visitors are here for the beaches and restaurants.

Unfortunately, the burden of servicing this type of visitor falls mostly on the council by way of road infrastructure and upkeep of public facilities. The responsibility of servicing overnight visitors is carried more by our shire's accommodation providers.

Destination Byron is a not-for-profit group of volunteers that do not receive government funding.

We do our best to bring intelligence to the visitor economy debate through hosting events and research.

Destination Byron believes the topic of over-tourism must be approached with a thorough understanding of our shires three visitor types.

Any council or government policies that will impact our shire's visitor economy should be done with full understanding of how it will impact each of the three visitor types.

If they're all treated equally, we may find our shire penalises the high-yield low-impact visitors without addressing the root cause of feeling we suffer over-tourism - which is likely an over-active drive market, over-supply of accommodation, and our poor underlying infrastructure to accommodate all three visitor types.