Why the number of Byron’s day-visitors from South East Queensland will continue to grow

Annual ‘day-visitor’ numbers to our shire hit a record 1.1 million late last year. The research summary can be found on our Research page.

Day-visitors are the biggest contributor to our shire’s visitor numbers. Our thriving visitor economy welcomes about 2.24 million visitors p.a. for comparison, Noosa welcomes around 2.3 million visitors p.a.

Byron’s visitor numbers consist of three separate demand drivers:  1. ‘Domestic Drive Market’ 1.12 million visitors (most from SE Qld), 2. ‘Domestic Overnight market’ 906,000 visitors, and 3. ‘International Overnight market’ 213,000 visitors.

Day-visitor numbers have grown a staggering 415,000 since YE Sept 2014 (58% increase), with 43% from the Gold Coast, 31% from Northern NSW, and 23% from Brisbane.

So why the growth?

The population of SE Queensland currently sits at around 3.5 million and is estimated to hit 5.8 million by 2046 (source: NewsCorp). All oceanfront land between Noosa and the Tweed River has essentially been built out except for nature reserves. This growing population bubble is becoming more and more urban and they’re going to need to escape this environment on weekends. Their most immediate options are Noosa to the north and Byron to the south.

Byron shire faces the exact same challenge as Noosa. Their day visitor numbers are said to be slightly higher than Byron’s. The mayor of Noosa Tony Wellington was quoted saying “…there’s a sort of a building tsunami of day trippers. Our issue is how do we deal with this great driving tourist market?”. Noosa has gone as far as creating a ‘sustainable tourism stakeholder reference group’ and have engaged a ‘behaviour change expert’ to tackle the challenge. Byron shire’s poor underlying infrastructure is only worsened by vehicles that are here for a few hours only. Research indicates that these day visitors are here for the beaches and restaurants. Unfortunately, the burden of servicing this type of visitor falls mostly on the council – by way of road infrastructure and upkeep of public facilities. the responsibility of servicing overnight visitors is carried more by our shire’s accommodation providers.

Destination Byron is a not-for-profit group of volunteers that do not received government funding. We do our best to bring intelligence to the visitor economy debate through hosting events and research. Destination Byron believes the topic of over-tourism must be approached with a thorough understanding of our shires three visitor types. Any council or government policies that will impact our shires visitor economy should be done with full understanding of how it will impact each of the three visitor types.

If they’re all treated equally, we may find our shire penalises the ‘higher yield lower impact’ visitors without addressing the actual root cause of our feeling of ‘over-tourism’ – which is likely an over-active drive market, over supply of accommodation, and our poor underlying infrastructure to accommodate all three visitor types.