Wendy Bithell from Byron Bay Eco Tours describes the current climate as ‘like being trapped underwater, and the only air you can breathe is through a straw’.
She is one of many local tourism-based industries that are doing it tough, and she says NSW government assistance isn’t cutting it.
She told The Echo, ‘I’ve been running my small eco-tourism business for the past 14 years, and things have never been so tough. Not in the last lockdown, the bushfires, floods or the GFC’.
‘I am getting some help from the state government, but it’s not enough. I’m literally haemorrhaging money at the moment’.
And while the federal JobKeeper last year helped to keep many afloat, she says the JobSaver payments ‘are barely covering my home and office rents’.
‘On top of that, I’ve been handing out thousands in refunds, and other bills like insurance and rego just don’t stop’.
‘This is even more infuriating with the [ABC] 7.30 Report, highlighting that some big companies who have received hundreds of millions of dollars in JobKeeper have doubled and tripled their profits’.
She says that like other businesses, she adapted to find new revenue streams since the pandemic and bushfires. Prior to that, she says, ‘70 per cent of my customers were international’.
‘I repositioned my tours, creating new tours like Bush Tucker Walks with Aunty Delta, three day luxury hiking experiences, and giving locals a 30 per cent discount on our Night Vision Walks’.
And the changes were working, she says, with the ‘international/domestic split [being] reversed’.
She says, ‘I know some readers will say, “Boo hoo, poor old tourism operator”, but I am an award winning, advanced eco-tourism accredited business, who conducts sustainable, ethical eco tours’.
‘I work with local Arakwal woman Delta Kay. Together, we are helping people live with respect on Country.
‘All of my guides are either environmental scientists or traditional owners, all with education backgrounds.
‘We don’t just take people to places of natural beauty, or to see wildlife, we explain its significance, its science, and ensure that we protect it’.
Bush tucker walks
She says, ‘What I’m asking is, when we are all released from lockdown, why not have a staycation?
‘Use your dine and discover vouchers (which have been extended to June 2022). Experience some of the best eco-tourism in the state. Byron Bay eco-tourism businesses have won best eco-tourism in NSW, every year since 2016.
‘Do a bush tucker walk, a night vision walk, see wild platypus or koala, do the Nightcap Historic Track, go on a cruise on the Brunswick River, go kayaking with dolphins. Calculate your carbon footprint and find out about local tree planting events. Support your local eco-tourism businesses, so we can support the local community and environment’.
For more info, visit Vision Walks.
Local businesses that are doing it tough are welcome to contact The Echo.