Northern Star

Tweed beats tourism blues

TOURISM on the Tweed is growing despite the global economic crisis and declining visitor numbers to popular destinations such as the Gold Coast and Byron Bay.

While the global financial slowdown as well as swine flu fears has been blamed for keeping international tourists away, overnight stays on the Tweed by international visitors has increased by 6.7 per cent from March 2008 to 2009 or from 19,300 nights to 20,600.

These cashed-up foreigners are also staying longer on the Tweed with a 140 per cent increase in the number of nights booked by international tourists, from 141,000 to 338,000 over the 12 months to March 2009.

And it is not just the international travellers who have cottoned on to what the Tweed has to offer, with overnight stays by domestic visitors increasing by 28 per cent over the year, from 356,000 to 455,000 nights.

The True Blue tourists are also staying longer on the Tweed, according to the figures released by Tourism Research Australia, with 1.72 million nights booked by domestic tourists in the year from March 2008-09, an increase of 32 per cent on figures for the previous 12-month period.

“As a tourism body, it is extremely satisfying to see that our efforts in marketing the region are paying dividends for our operators, particularly in terms of the international market,” said Tweed Tourism boss Phil Villiers.

“These figures are especially pleasing considering well-known tourist destinations like the Gold Coast and Byron Bay have experienced a decline in international visitor numbers in the same year.”

According to Tourism Research Australia the Gold Coast has experienced a 7.9 per cent drop in international visitors from 857,000 in the period March 2007 to 2008, to 790,000 for the year to March 2009.

On a positive note, however, the amount of money pumped into the Gold Coast economy by international tourists increased by 3.3 per cent from March 2008 to 2009 from $850 million last year to $879 million in March 2009.

An influx in international flights to the Gold Coast Airport and targeted marketing by Tweed Tourism has created the positive results, according to Mr Villiers.

“In line with the increasing number of overseas flights now coming into the Gold Coast Airport, Tweed Tourism has increased its focus on promoting the region internationally over the past few years, most notably by hosting the Australian Tourism Export Council symposium in 2007, and through hosting numerous travel agent and wholesalers familiarisations since then.

“Ultimately, the benefits of tour- ism visitation flow through to every sector of the local economy, generating employment opportunities, retail sales, building activity and so on, so any good news for the tourism industry is good news for everyone living and working on the Tweed.”

More day trippers are also heading for the Tweed, with an extra 190,000 people visiting the area from March 2008-09 according to the National Visitor Survey.

“All of the figures have shown a positive growth in all sectors on the Tweed since the December quarter (October to December) last year, which is when other destinations started to notice a decline,” Mr Villiers said.

“What makes these latest figures particularly gratifying is that they have not been inflated by any unusual events that would attract large numbers of people in a limited time period,” Mr Villiers said.

“They are simply showing a solid increase in the number of people choosing to holiday on the Tweed and staying for longer periods.”

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