The people behind the Byron Naturally campaign are thrilled with the upturn in visitor numbers to Byron Bay this summer after a very cold commercial winter. But not everyone is convinced that their fortunes have turned around just yet.
While many tourist destinations around the country reported a downturn in numbers over the holiday season, Byron’s chamber of commerce (Byron United) president Paul Waters says many Byron businesses reported their best Christmas in years.
Mr Waters believes the upturn can be attributed largely to the Byron Naturally campaign which was screened on television throughout SE QLD and northern NSW.
‘Anyone who walked through town would have noticed the upswing in QLD number plates,’ he said.
‘The campaign targeted south-east Queensland as well as locals to encourage people to visit and sample as much of what the region has to offer as possible. We have to continue to support and promote our region; this is how Byron United can encourage customers to buy from Byron businesses.’
Brad Tom, partner in Byron Bay accounting firm Thomas Noble & Russell, agrees.
‘Our tourism and hospitality client base has increased turnover by 10 to 20 per cent. Business confidence around town has picked up.’
Campaign creator Adrian Nelson told Echonetdaily, ‘The model, which aggregates a small investment from nearly 100 businesses, is not only effective but has helped Byron United attract the support of large industry players. Destination NSW was so impressed with the campaign it matched business investment dollar-for-dollar.
‘This is a huge coup for our region,’ he says.
Beach Hotel general manager Elke van Haandel believes that the benefits trickle down throughout the region. ‘As a result of the busier trade we also increased our demand on our local suppliers and contractors of which we use hundreds. In turn, the suppliers and contractors benefited financially from the extra tourism generated by Byron Naturally.’
However, the picture is not rosy for all businesses in town.
‘There seems to be an invisible line at the intersection of Marvell Street which tourists just won’t cross,’ says Bohotopia manager Tess Easton.
Attracting wealthy demographics
She says that the benefits from increased tourist numbers are flowing almost exclusively towards the large, branded business at the top end of town.
Adrian Nelson contends that struggling businesses should join Byron Naturally and benefit from traffic generated by its micro-sites, which provide each member with a profile including photos and video.
He told Echonetdaily, ‘For Byron Naturally to work for individual businesses, there’s only one thing to do – get involved and make it work!’
However, Ms Easton remains unconvinced. ‘Byron Naturally is attracting a wealthy demographic, and if the “beach end” of town is doing well, that’s awesome,’ she says.
‘We’re at “the local end” of town. Shops like Red Ginger, Seeta, the Conscious Cafe, Big Fish, Bohotopia and Animal Dreaming are at the heart of Byron’s uniqueness.
‘We cater for local needs, and we rely on consistent, local support in return.’
Ms Easton says that several nearby shops have closed, while others hang in the balance. ‘Every time a local business closes its doors it makes room for another franchise.
‘It’s no good whingeing about Byron becoming like every other town after it’s too late. We need the locals to support us now.’