North Coast Destination Network chairman Cameron Arnold says that more work needs to be done to lure backpackers back to the NSW north coast after recent International Visitor Survey (IVS) figures revealed some 4,000 fewer visited the region in the year to June, spending almost 300,000 fewer nights.
The organisation Willing Workers On Organic Farms (WWOOF) says it has seen numbers drop by half since volunteering was excluded as a way of earning a second year working holiday visa last year.
Mr Arnold said the new figures do not even take into account the impact of the controversial ‘backpacker tax’, which has been put on hold pending an inquiry.
‘The NSW Business Chamber Tourism Advisory Committee, of which I’m a member, is working on that particular issue and I’m hopeful we can get some change in approach,’ he told Echonetdaily.
Mr Arnold also believes Australia has to take up the challenge posed by an increasing number of South East Asian countries which have ‘specifically targeted fantastic adventure tourism at very competitive prices.’
He said that a reasonable number of people were still visiting the region but the plummet in visitor nights in particular needed to be addressed.
‘We need a new campaign promoting Australia as one of the world’s safest destinations.’
Asked if he thought some Byron locals would be pleased to see fewer backpackers in the town, Mr Arnold said, ‘I’ve never heard that comment.’
‘I think backpackers are quintessentially part of Byron. Such a major part of what makes Byron different [to other country towns] is the many different nationalities travelling through,’ he said.