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July 20, 2024

Arnold’s tourism role recognised

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Cameron Arnold has recently been awarded an OAM for services to tourism. Photo Jeff ‘OAM My Gawd’ Dawson

If tourism is the lifeblood of the Byron Shire, then Cameron Arnold is one of its key haematologists.

The local father has been a leader in the industry for over a decade, working hard to make sure Byron and the North Coast remains a viable and sustainable tourism Mecca for people across the country and beyond.

That work was recognised this week when Mr Arnold was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia as part of the King’s Birthday Honours.

‘It’s a huge honour and one I wasn’t expecting,’ Mr Arnold says. ‘To be the first in my lineage, my family, to have received this type of honour – that’s big for me and for us. I’m hugely grateful to my wife and my kids for allowing me to do the stuff that I’ve done.’

That ‘stuff’ includes being the chair of multiple regional tourism organisations for the North Coast, including the inaugural chair of Destination North Coast, and the president of the Northern Rivers branch of the NSW Business Chamber Regional Advisory Council.

In these positions, he has worked hard with other leaders and stakeholders on multiple projects, including several sustainable tourism projects with local Indigenous organisations.

He also had a key role in advocating for the creation of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail, which is now a thriving destination used by tens of thousands of pedestrians and bike riders.

Rail trail

‘The rail trail is definitely one of the big ones,’ he says.

‘After 11 years, it definitely copped its fair share of criticism. It wasn’t all smooth sailing. The hardest part of that project was to help people understand what we were going to create, and that from a conservation perspective a key motivation was to keep the asset in public hands’.

Mr Arnold’s leadership role on this and other projects has allowed him to develop a unique perspective on the regional tourism industry, watching as local operators rode the roller-coaster of fires, floods and global pandemics.

‘The Byron Shire is, at its very heart, a tourism destination. I know that tourism has been a divisive topic at times’.

‘But I think there’s a misunderstanding that tourism is all about the economy here, all about money, but it’s not.

‘Tourism in this area has been around for a very long time. At its core it’s about connection [and] the different people and cultures coming into the area. It’s social, educational, experiential as well as economic. We can sometimes lose sight of that.’

While Mr Arnold is unashamedly pro-tourism, he is not afraid to point out times when things have gone awry.

‘I think we did lose our way for a time when Covid hit,’ he says. ‘It needed to be pared back – the price people were asking for accommodation, food, beverage, etc’.

For Mr Arnold, his future focus is on nature, completing the rail trail, and connecting tourists with the region’s outer villages.

‘That way, we can disperse visitors more broadly, and offer a variety of products and a broader variety of experiences beyond just lying on the beach in Byron’.

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