Hopes for tourism to boost Murwillumbah businesses
DRIVING down the main street of Murwillumbah its easy to spot the 12 empty shop fronts dotted throughout suggesting a struggling town.
But Councillor Pryce Allsop said he believed fostering tourism within the town would see the CBD thrive again.
"We really need to get on board the tourism band wagon,” Cr Allsop said.
"With the likes of the big shopping centres attracting so many people from our region, there's a draw out of Murwillumbah.
"We've got the art gallery and it's doing a mighty job but it doesn't bring people to main street. It's not enough.”
Cr Allsop suggested providing visitors with a larger shopping centre, accommodation and greater variety would entice people to stay in town.
"We need something for people with disposable incomes to have somewhere to stay and enjoy it,” he said.
"If we can facilitate more of that type of tourism then we're just going to bring more and more money into the town. It's not just a money grab but it's making business sustainable.”
Former Murwillumbah District Business Chamber president Toni Zuschke said she didn't believe Murwillumbah CBD was failing but agreed encouraging tourism through the town would boost business.
"Every town has empty shops and ours is no exception,” Ms Zuschke said.
She said three years ago the chamber conducted a survey on the amount of vacant shop fronts in town and found 33% of the CBD was up for rent.
"Three years ago the CBD was very much alive and well,” Ms Zuschke said.
"The business that had shut were a sign of the times. Those businesses have now been filled.
"People are taking the opportunity when another business folds, other business have relocated. They moved into this bigger premise and shops will be empty.”
With greater numbers of people travelling from Byron Bay to Brisbane to visit Murwillumbah, Ms Zusche said businesses needed to start thinking of things to entice visitors to stay.
"People have to find a niche that will survive in a country town,” she said.
"A lot of these people who do these fashion boutiques in town are getting visitors coming in and buying.
"We need to become the Mount Tambourine of the Northern Rivers.
"Murwillumbah is probably easier to get to because of the highway upgrades.”
Cr Allsop agreed saying the businesses could shut on Monday's and Tuesday's to encourage weekend trade.
"Mum and dad businesses struggle with that,” he said.
"They have to be open Saturday and Sunday.”
Cr Allsop said Murwillumbah needs to look at also including other features that would encourage people to visit and stay.
"In the middle of town we've got Hospital Hill and what ideally could be done there is a botanical gardens,” Cr Allsop said.
"We could had something that would be inviting and engaging like a lookout.”