Tourism still under threat

BACKPACKER operators in Hervey Bay are still in survival mode despite an increase in young international visitors in recent months.

Next Backpackers manager Mark Juppenlatz said while there had been a recent lift in backpacker arrivals the long-term figures showed a significant drop in numbers to the region during the past two years.

He said in 2009 for the month of November 2876 backpackers came to Hervey Bay aboard Greyhound buses. While for the same period this year those numbers had reduced to 1800.

"Numbers have picked up slightly at the moment but that is normal for this time of year when we traditionally get schoolies and a late November rush of backpackers," Mr Juppenlatz said.

"It is just so expensive for us to compete with Cairns and places like that, where international tourists can get a room for $20 per night."

He said over regulation had resulted in a visit to Fraser Island costing tourists much more and it was difficult to entice visitors with the high Australian dollar.

Mr Juppenlatz claimed the average cost for tourists had doubled in the past few years, making the trip less appealing to budget-conscious backpackers.

"Yeah, people are coming but they're not spending like they used too, things are just too expensive," he said.

Palace Backpacker manager Mick Guteridge admitted the past winter was the toughest he had experienced.

"Numbers have been pretty scary for the winter," he said.

"It was definitely the worst I've experienced in 11 years of operating.

"Generally speaking it's been a very tough year in the backpacker market and the guys that are visiting aren't spending because of the dollar."

He said government legislation had resulted in increased costs for backpackers and operators alike.

With the need for vehicle modifications and an accompanying guide on Fraser Island trips, prices were pushed up.

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