SALT SHAKES UP ECONOMY
By ED SOUTHORN
TOURISTS and locals spent more than $5 million at the new Salt Village in the summer holidays.
Trading data released yesterday shows the Salt resorts, bars, restaurants, cafes and shops were "flat out" between December 25 and January 28, while the Outrigger and Peppers resorts were packed with near-peak or peak occupancy between Christmas and New Year.
The Saltbar and Bistro served more than 1000 meals a day, including 4000 calamari rings, more than 2000-dozen oysters and 170 kilograms of rump steak.
Even the Golden Door Spa had all hands hard at work, providing more than 1200 spa treatments.
Saltbar's kitchen is now being reconfigured to slash waiting times after the overwhelming influx of peak-hour holiday season patrons.
The booming trade coincides with the NSW North Coast earning a coveted spot in the Top 10 Australian Holiday Destinations on wotif.com, the holiday bookings website which successfully listed on the Australian Stock Exchange last year.
Ray Group chief executive Tom Ray, whose company developed the Salt Village, said the challenge now was to meet growing public demand with enough restaurants, cafes and retail outlets.
"What is really pleasing was that many of those who visited us over Christmas and New Year were repeat guests," Mr Ray said.
"Many of last year's visitors came back and brought friends and family with them.
"The word of mouth has been phenomenal."
Mr Ray revealed two weeks ago that turnover among Salt retailers was up 35 to 40 per cent for the summer holidays on last year.
He pointed out yesterday that the $5 million spent over Christmas and January was a huge injection into the Tweed economy.
"The local flow-on effects in terms of employment and econo-mic growth are huge when you consider none of this revenue was being generated in the Tweed a couple of years ago," Mr Ray said.
But he conceded some diners at the Saltbar bistro had to wait up to 60 minutes for a meal between Christmas and New Year.
"We have decided the bistro kitchen needs to be expanded and we expect the redesign to be completed in time for the June-July holidays," Mr Ray said.
For the fortnight from Boxing Day, the Saltbar bistro dished up 4000 calamari rings, 700 serves of garlic bread, 1507 kids' meals, 580
Caesar salads, 2280 dozen oysters, 524 slices of cake, 188 cookies, 80kg of pork spare ribs and 170kg of rump steak.
Thirsty patrons drank 2236 bottles of Corona beer, more than 5000 litres of tap beer and 1700 coffees during the same period.
Peppers Salt Resort and Spa general manager Michael Saville said the resort operated at near peak occupancy between December 25 and January 28, catering for 11,282 adult nights and 3681 children nights.
He said Roughie's Restaurant in the resort was also very busy.
"Our major market was families, however there was also a large number of couples," Mr Saville said.
"Guests tended to book in for longer than usual, staying an average of five nights.
"There were also lots of repeat visitors and we have already received strong enquiries and bookings for next year."
Outrigger on the Beach at Salt general manager Gerd Beurich said the hotel peaked in capacity between Boxing Day and New Year's Eve, operating at 98 per cent, with a total of 13,738 guest nights during January.
"January was a record month since we opened in January 2005," Mr Beurich said.
"Our peak lasted longer this year and did not slow down through to the Australia Day long weekend."
Mr Ray said Salt Village was now injecting more than $60 million in annual recurring revenue into the Tweed economy, with non-construction employment for more than 300 people.
As well, Salt has created several hundred indirect employment jobs throughout northern NSW and the southern Gold Coast, he said.
The Daily News on February 1 reported that the Tweed has raced past Surfers Paradise as the region's development hotspot with an $8.2 billion capital works boom.
The "New Tweed Coast" was a finalist in the recent NSW Tourism Awards for "best new tourism development".