Talking Future Tourism campaign kicks off around the kitchen table

Published on 08 March 2019

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Byron Shire’s Acting Mayor, Michael Lyon, launched Council’s Talking Future Tourism campaign at the Mullumbimby Farmers Market this morning (Friday 8 March) with a retro-style ‘kitchen table’ discussion that will kick off a six week, in-depth conversation with the community about how tourism should be managed.

These conversations will guide the development of a new 10 year tourism management plan called the Byron Shire Sustainable Visitation Strategy.

A Sustainable Visitation Strategy ensures that the environment and the culture of an area is considered during the development of the strategy, as well as the economic factors. It’s a framework of 41 criteria managed by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) that drives global sustainable destination, travel and tourism standards and accreditation.

“It’s no secret that Council, and the community, have been struggling to keep up with the impact of ever-growing visitor numbers over the last decade,” Byron Council’s Acting Mayor, Michael Lyon said.

“Last year more than 2 million people came to Byron Shire – the numbers are staggering.

“The popularity of Byron Shire as a tourist destination, along with its attractiveness as a sea change locality has placed strains on the Shire’s infrastructure and services. Our residents are understandably concerned about this. The tourism and business sectors also support the need for a coordinated and strategic approach to the challenges our Shire is facing.

“We know that growth in visitor numbers has brought much needed investment and vitality to the local economy but at the same time it has placed pressure on our precious natural environment and has raised a raft of issues and challenges for local residents as well as for Council,” he said.

“The question is - what do we want the next 10 years to look like?

“This is our chance to think about the concept of sustainable tourism as a foundation for decision-making, one that is committed to making a low impact on the environment and local culture, whilst supporting future employment for residents.

“But first we have to take a step back and find out what our community’s experience of tourism currently is, what issues it raises for people and how it impacts on all of our lives in both positive and negative ways.

“This is a big, complex and often emotive topic and that’s why we’ve prepared a kitchen table handbook which allows our community to deeply understand the facts and figures relevant to the tourism industry and also provides in-depth commentary on six key topics.

“We’ve also set up this process so that anyone with an interest can host their kitchen table discussion.   We will set you up with the resources and a step-by-step guide so you can host your own in-depth conversation around the kitchen table with a cuppa or two with friends, family or neighbours,” he said.

Topics covered in the in-depth Kitchen Table discussions include:

Topic 1 Tourism in Byron Shire: the Facts, Figures and Trends

Topic 2 Economy and Infrastructure: Benefits and Impacts

Topic 3 Culture: Maintaining the Vibe

Topic 4 Our Unique Environment

Topic 5 Events: Local, Emerging, Celebrations and Global Festivals

Topic 6 Short-Term Rental Accommodation (Holiday Letting).

Following this community consultation process, the findings and recommendations will be presented to a group of 35 randomly selected residents in a Community Solutions Panel (CSP) who will then recommend a vision and prioritise actions to inform the Strategy development.

The 10 year Byron Shire Sustainable Visitation Strategy will be drafted by August 2019 and placed on public exhibition for comments in September/October.  The draft strategy will go to a Council meeting for adoption in late 2019. 

Get involved in the following ways:

Host a kitchen table discussion yourself - download the Handbook from the Council website or come in and pick up a Kitchen table Discussion pack from Council.

Or if you don’t want to host a discussion, just complete the online survey at or;

Attend one of 10 Kitchen Table events, to be hosted by Council.  See the website: ( for all the venues, dates and times.

By participating in a discussion on tourism, and submitting your completed feedback to us by 14 April 2019, you will be entered into a draw to win two one-day VIP passes plus parking to Bluesfest 2019.

For more information contact Council’s Tourism Officer, Sarah Workman on 02 6626 7170 or 0437 171 062.

FOR BACKGROUND: What is a Sustainable Visitation Strategy?

A Sustainable Visitation Strategy ensures that our environment and culture is considered during the development of a Strategy, as well as economic factors. Our Byron Shire Sustainable Visitation Strategy must:

Reflect the values that the community wants to see from visitors and the industry;

Strike a balance between private benefits and wide-ranging scope of community expectations;

Explore community understanding of the visitor economy into and how this works through every day and core services;

Explore the ways that Council can best respond to and influence the visitor economy and future tourism growth; and

Understand the community's vision for the visitor economy and Council's ability to deliver.


Tourism trends and facts

Byron Shire has a history of over 100 years as a tourist destination. Day-trippers were first attracted to the area in the early 1900s, with camping and caravanning holidays becoming popular from 1930s. From the 1960s surfers were attracted to our shores by the excellent surfing conditions.

From the mid-1980s tourism and development activity increased rapidly, and in 2017/18, the Shire welcomed over 2 million visitors. The popularity of Byron Shire as a tourist destination, along with its attractiveness as a sea change locality has placed strains on the Shire’s infrastructure and services. Our residents are understandably concerned about this. The tourism and business sectors also support the need for a coordinated and strategic approach to the challenges our Shire is facing.

In order to fully appreciate tourism in our Shire, here are some statistics and analysis on our tourism industry:

In 2016/17, Tourism and Hospitality generated 23% of Byron’s jobs (3,506 jobs) and 14.1% of output/sales ($463M) in 2016/17. As a sector it is Byron’s largest employer.

Output and jobs generated by the sector were equivalent to Coffs Harbour which has an economy ($3.24B) and population (74,641) more than double Byron’s ($1.56B; 32,790).

In 2017/18, Byron was estimated to have had 2.0 million visitors.

Half of Byron’s visitors stay overnight (domestic and international), compared to only 37% for the NSW as a whole, totalling 4 million visitor nights.

If the same methodology is applied to all LGAs, Byron’s ‘serviceable population’ is greater than Orange, Bathurst and Lismore.

The cost of servicing this temporary population is estimated at $23 million per year.

Recent growth has outpaced the state’s. Between 2014 and 2018, total visitation was estimated to have grown by 49% compared to 11% for NSW.

Day-trippers increased by 74% over the last decade, and domestic overnight visitors grew by 57%.

Byron’s visitation is similar to much larger cities such as Launceston and Townsville.

Byron has similar visitation to tourist destinations like the Great Ocean Road, but four times the amount of international visitors stay overnight.

Byron Bay is the 4th most visited destination in NSW and the 11th most visited in Australia amongst international visitors.

Ballina Byron Gateway Airport caters to half a million passengers each year and over the last five years was the fastest growing airport amongst Australia’s top 20.

International visitor nights are forecast to grow by 900,000 over the next decade, domestic nights by 700,000.

Private rental accommodation is more commonly used by visitors in Byron than elsewhere in NSW. In the three years to 2016/17, 17% of domestic overnight visitors used rental properties, double most benchmarks. Byron has more Airbnb listings than all but three Greater Sydney LGAs.




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