Visitors to the Byron Shire would be given specific advice about how they would be expected to behave under a far-reaching Sustainable Visitor Strategy, developed by Byron Council.
The strategy, the outcome of extensive consultation with residents and industry representatives, is due to go on public exhibition in the coming weeks, and will be discussed at this week’s planning and development meeting.
It includes a series of strategies and proposed actions under the overarching vision of welcoming visitors, and having a visitor economy that ‘cares for and respects our residents, creates low-impact visitor experiences, protects our natural environment, celebrates our cultural diversity and shares our social values’.
The challenges faced in achieving such a vision are acknowledged in the strategy, including the fact that by 2030, it is predicted that the Shire could have 3.86 million visitors a year.
In 2018/19, Byron Shire had 200,000 international overnight visitors, 1m domestic overnight visitors, and 1m day trippers.
This has the potential to significantly increase both the ecological and amenity impacts on the Shire, including damage to fragile local environments, increased degradation of local infrastructure such as roads, and severe overcrowding of popular visitor locations.
One of the strategies suggested to address these impacts was to position the Shire as a leading sustainable and environmentally responsible tourism destination.
This included the creation of a ‘Welcome to Byron Shire’ program for visitors, and a ‘Tourism Toolkit’ for industry.
The program would aim to provide ‘specific behaviour expectations’ for visitors, lift customer service standards, and provide product destination and Indigenous heritage information.
Other actions to achieve this goal included investigating the opportunity to design a ‘Byron Shire Eco Check’ program to ‘help tourism businesses implement environmentally friendly and sustainable business practices’.
There was also a plan to ‘encourage and work with local environmental groups to develop volunteer tourism initiatives’.
Other plans and strategies included improving the sustainability, coordination and management of festivals, business and leisure events, improving road infrastructure and parking availability, and improving planning regulations and zoning for managing the growth of tourism.
These strategies would be implemented in consultation with local Aboriginal stakeholders in relation to opportunities to enhance visitation experiences, while maintaining and protecting cultural heritage sites and places.