The extravagant, unseasonal spending of tourists
RESTAURANTS in Northern NSW are reporting spending up to $1500 for lunch seatings, with tourism operators enjoying a 20 per cent increase in bookings compared with the June-July period in 2019.
Destination North Coast chair Cameron Arnold said the unseasonable tourism bonanza was due to a lack of international flights, which made Northern NSW a "fashionable, luxurious destination" to be at for the last six weeks.
"We had very unseasonal spike and the North Coast - from the Tweed to Byron, but also inland and further south - became a bit of a 'go-to' destination when the restrictions were eased and people could start to travel," he said.
"The Queensland border was still closed, flights recommenced into Ballina/Byron airport and it was probably the furthest north you could go where the temperature was quite comfortable."
Mr Arnold said businesses were reporting some good numbers coming in, although the local tourism capacity wasn't what it normally would be.
"Some bigger operators, such as Byron at Byron for instance, is still closed, and Elements of Byron is open only at 25 per cent capacity, so we couldn't take the numbers that we normally would, but it was a really positive spoke for the north coast," he said.
"Some businesses are quoting bookings 20 per cent up versus the same period last year, which is good because July is normally the quietest time of the year here.
"A lot of caravan and camping grounds were fully booked so they did really well.
"Some restaurants reported some really good spending. They were talking about groups of customers that would normally spend $300 to $400 spending now $1500 for lunch.
"That's a big positive sign in a terrible situation."
Mr Arnold explained the precarious balance between keeping businesses open and safety during a pandemic had been a tricky one for everyone.
"We need to be cautiously optimistic and make sure that we do maintain our COVID plans and adhere to all the directions from authorities, we don't want to North Coast having outbreaks and becoming a cluster," he said.
"We know what it is like when there are no visitors and that does impact on everybody.
"Both government and industry worked really well together and responded as best they could in these circumstances."
Mr Arnold said the measures put in place by the Ballina Byron Airport for a COVID-19 plan were at the top end of safety.
"It was one of the first airports to offer temperature checks and limiting access, and that has been the message across the North Coast," he said.