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April 11, 2021

Byron Bay gets noted in Europe – for overtourism

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Byron Bay has featured in a European Union (EU) study on overtourism. It was one of 12 non-EU, and the only Australian destination, included in the study; and while the Destination Byron tourist symposium takes place in the Bay today one thing that isn’t obviously on the itinerary is overtourism.

Overtourism is a relatively new term that looks at the broader impact of tourism on the ‘the social, ecological, economic, physical, psychological, and/or political capacity of destinations’ according to the study Overtourism: impact and possible policy responses.

‘While overcrowding is seen by the industry as an issue that mainly stands in the way of continued growth, the impacts of overtourism can represent an existential risk for destinations around the world,’ the study states.

‘Uncontrolled tourism development can cause significant damage to landscapes, seascapes, air and water quality, as well as the living conditions of residents, causing economic inequalities and social exclusion, amongst many other issues.

‘There are many examples where the cultural and natural heritage of a place is at risk, or where costs of living and real estate have substantially increased and caused a decline in quality of life.’

Byron Bay

One of the key issues the study identifies for Byron Bay is that local expectations and needs are at odds with the desire of the state government to use Byron Bay as a key element in attracting tourists to NSW and Australia.

Overtourism will remain a problem if the stakeholders on the local and higher levels do not align,’ the study states.

‘On the local level, there is a growing awareness that chasing the extra growth is undesirable but this is at odds with the NSW government’s goal of doubling overnight visitor expenditure by 2020.’

The study also recognised that the state government while using the drawcard of Byron Bay in its destination NSW advertising was none-the-less pushing responsibility for ‘local infrastructure and amenity issues relating to the impacts of tourism’ back onto local government.

Commenting on the study local ecologist Dialin Pugh said that while it recognises that the number of destinations that are experiencing over tourism are still low the study acknowledges that ‘the effects of overtourism are potentially severe, to a degree that causes cities to lose their primary function as residence. In addition to this, both natural and cultural heritage sites are at risk of losing their appeal as desirable tourism destinations due to the emergence of overtourism.’


Some of the recommendations to manage overtourism include the need to develop economic policies in the form of taxes or incentives and by way of improving economic benefits for residents, specifically those not directly involved in the tourism economy. It suggests that national governments are encouraged ‘in implementing regulations that restricts official license in the housing for touristic use in congested areas’.

Most of us have been a tourist at some point. I have travelled in Europe and been to many of those places that are being impacted by overtouisim, the ghost towns like Dubrovnik in Croatia (yes where Game of Thrones was filmed) to discover the beauty of the architecture and history but the utter lack of locals. Getting up in the morning and heading into the town centre there was a sea of tourists some wondering their own paths while the rest moved in shoals around the city following their guide. But apart the from people in the shops (perhaps some were locals) there wasn’t a heart left in the town. There were no locals but there were plenty of high end shops, delightful alleyways, tourist entertainment and restaurants galore.

The idea of overtourism provides the chance to begin to look at tourism not just as a growth industry where more tourist means more money but as joint venture between both the businesses, the locals and the environment that keeps the unique character of a place that attracts people to it. It is the locals that give the a place its character, once they are gone you just have a street full of shops, tourists and if you’re lucky you haven’t destroyed the environment.

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  1. Not just ‘over tourism’ that’s turning many Europeans off Byron. Swedish friends of mine remarked on the media reports over there of the growing crime issue in Byron Bay, drunken hooliganism and theft from motor vehicles. They tell me, with some irony, ‘why would we come back to Byron when we can experience all those risks here in Sweden?’ The shark attacks get wide coverage there too, so swimming is out.

  2. State Govt and local businesses are in complete accord re overtourism ie “too much is never enough”
    With little expenditure on infrastructure from toilets to potholes not to mention eco tourism infrastructure Byron is becoming a place where you go for a few days to get trashed ( and trash up ) and then go home. Very little care and concern for the environment or the social needs of locals will see this golden goose die and the loss of what makes/made it special.

  3. I met a young couple of travellers from Belgium while in New Zealand and when they found out I was from Byron Bay they said “oh we did not like Byron Bay, it was so crowded and filled with drunken people at night, we even saw people in the water at the beach drinking bottles of beer and throwing the bottles in the water, it is one big party”. Unfortunately I agree. I listened today to a group of people in a holiday house near me sitting outside. Their yelling out and screeching could be heard a block away and only ceased when they filed out and got into the four cars at the property and drove off.
    Unless something is done within the near future, the small amount of community that is left will be gone taking with it the soul of what made it the place people wanted to move to, live in and raise their families.

    • My husband and I spent a night in Byron Bay last year. The accommodation was lovely, location was just a stone’s throw from centre of town.All was great until late evening, when a large drunken party of young people disturbed the night for ths next few hours. They were staying at the same accommodation in a apartment nearby.
      The management has long departed for the night, there was no one to call. The next morning as staff arrived with cleaners and office staff, they were dutifully notified. Apologies were made and a discount offered for our next visit.
      In a recent conversation with a friend of mine discussing drunken behaviour on our streets in this country, she commented how this behaviour is seen as dangerous and unsafe to overseas visitors, particularly to Asian tourists. To us its annoying and we might mostly laugh at it. To Japanese tourists for example, its makes a place as unsafe location to visit by international standards.
      For us personally, we wont be visiting Byron again for all the sad obvious reasons stated all too frequently now even beyond our shores.


    • Byron is a totally dysfunctional LGA which is unable to solve its own tourism challenges and expects the rest of NSW to fix its issues. Most other LGA’s in NSW have resolved most of their tourism challenges many years ago.

    • Hate to break it to you but there are parties like this all over the world.. This is not a Byron issue.. i’ve lived in town 11 years and besides the traffic which they are looking to resolve there is no over crowing issue.. Not on the streets and not on the beach. Ive been to countries where its shoulder to shoulder people on the streets and on the beach.. As for parties on the beach.. more than likely backpackers. Whole article is a massive over exaggeration

  4. Byron Bay residential road infrastructure is appalling. I live across the border on the Gold Coast and on a recent visit there could not believe the state of disrepair of suburban roads. It’s shameful when you consider that NSW tags Byron as one of its premier destinations. The residents must be furious but every level of government should hang their heads in shame. They pump it for all it’s worth but give little back to the community

  5. OVERCROWDED and Lack of PARKING OVERATED as a local at TWEED has much more to offer however as a Backpaker it is ideal for Socialising. Really needs a Bypass road NOW!!!!. Can’t believe they opened a new Supermarket with no underground or rooftop parking FAIL!!! HAVE NO DESIRE TO VISIT THE PLACE COOLY has better BEACHES and the same Problem NOT ENOUGH PARKING!!!!! I HOPE ADLI Hhas LIQUOR lucense by now! Absolute stupidity reminds me of W.A. liquor licensing practices.

  6. It’s sad that so many locals who were renting there for years have been forced out due to home owners turning their homes into Air BnB’s. there’s never parking for locals to enjoy their own town and it’s lost it’s beautiful vibe and feels like a trashy red light district vibe now….. so commercial and yuk! There’s better towns around the zone that are so much nicer!

  7. I work in Byron often and its just become a dreadful place now. Over crowding, terrible traffic congestion, parking meters throughout the entire cbd. The industrial area is just as bad.
    A very large percentage of people working there are tourists. You really dont feel like you are even in Australia when you are there. The locals i speak to want to get out of the place. Those who fly in from Sydney and Melbourne are crazy when you have beautiful areas like Lennox Head, Yamba and around Coffs.
    The greens pretty much dominate the local governments in this area so this is what you get.

  8. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone and something local residents and ratepayers have have been warning local councillors about now for years. There has to be a move towards residents before tourists to preserve Byron and indeed the reason why tourists come.
    Development applications need to be vetted against environmental, local resident and amenities criteria NOT just economic.
    Byron needs a local and permanent community and protection against over population by rubber necking bucket list tickers.

  9. The beaches are great, the hinterland is magical, the town is crap.

    Been to London, Paris or anywhere in Europe in summer recently? Calling out BB for overpopulation compared to Europs is a bit of a joke though.

    • I agree – go to Paris, Barcelona, Rome, Greece, Venice, the whole Riviera etc and you’ll get a shock Even Bali now. You still don’t have to go far to find quiet beaches, bushland etc. in Byron Shire.

  10. Typical Byron,
    They have not been able to solve their own challenges for years and now blame tourism etc. Those LGA’s that have resolve their challenges many years ago do not seem to have these issues. Byron created its own issues because the locals can not agree on anything. Its probably best for the rest on NSW if Byron shut down so it can stop effecting everyone else in the State , expecting everyone else to pick up the pieces. Its not our fault that Byron is so dysfunctional.

  11. I have lived on Byron for approx 10 years have done lots of travelling im south east asia & Europe. I know that Byron is full of tourists but i still think i still live in the best place & am always most happy to get back here.Food is beautiful and lots to do,u
    can go out to music every night of week if you want. I live about 10 min walk to town.Very lucky.

  12. The individuals who create NSW tourism advertising should spend a couple of weeks in Byron Bay so they can accurately represent it in advertisements.

  13. I live in town in Byron Bay and it gets very crowded at peak times but other times it can be quieter. You just have to work out how to get the best out of the place as something is always happening.
    You can’t blame the Council as the State Government blocks the Council from raising extra money from tourists to pay for infrastructure eg. by imposing a bed tax and won’t let Council pass laws to properly regulate Air B and B’s and uncontrolled holiday letting.
    Underneath the tourist facade there still is a very active and close knit community just like in other “normal” country towns.

    • Byron Council has numerous opportunities to implement regs for STRA with many existing models already approved, they chose to be extreme in their approach and that’s why the NSW Gov. blocked their proposed LEP for STRA. Totally disfunctional process. Call for a state wide solution then when it begins (at the expense of all other LGA who are already approved) Council begins to agitate for a local result. Totally dysfunctional & typical, everyone else is at fault !


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