Backpackers?Are we missing out?
By ED SOUTHORN
DOES the Tweed want backpackers?
It's a difficult question ? some locals fear too many backpackers could disrupt the region's quiet, relaxed atmosphere, while others believe backpackers could boost the Tweed tourism industry.
German tourists Dirk Buehler and Silke Arnold, visiting Kingscliff for the first time yesterday in a hired camper van, are veterans of the backpacker scene and reckon the Tweed would be an ideal backpacker destination.
Dirk, a jewellery trader, is on his seventh trip Down Under and has bunked in some of Australia's best coastal hostels.
He likes Kingscliff's natural beauty and strategic location between the Gold Coast and Byron.
"This is so beautiful it could attract backpackers definitely," Dirk said.
But there are no backpacker hostels in Kingscliff, few activities catering for the "young internationals" backpacker market and comparatively poor public transport and shuttle connections.
Dirk and Silke found the Tweed Coast when they unexpectedly noticed a "scenic drive" road sign on their way to Brisbane from Sydney, but they reckon it's up to the local community to decide if backpackers should be encouraged.
The Germans were commenting after Kingscliff travel agent Trevor Sheahan wrote to the Daily News pointing out that Kingscliff did not cater for backpackers, without paddle craft hire, sightseeing tours or accommodation focused on the backpacker market.
Mr Sheahan yesterday said he agreed that it was up to Tweed Coast residents to decide if they want backpackers to diversify the district's booming tourism industry.
Tweed and Coolangatta Tourism general manager Terry Watson said backpackers were a "low priority".
Mr Watson said the local tourism industry was focused on developing experiences and activities for the couples and families markets.
He said it was vital for Tweed Coast tourism to "absorb" new accommodation at the Outrigger and Peppers resorts at the new Salt township.
And a big effort was under way to support complementary agri-tourism, such as the "Taste the Tweed" project promoting boutique food producers and retailers, adding value to the local community and assisting the Tweed to become a "unique and distinctive" holiday destination.