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Byron Shire Council’s draft Sustainable Visitation Strategy (SVS) is on public exhibition and residents, businesses and anyone with an interest in local tourism is asked to have a look and make a submission.

The aim of the SVS is to support a visitor economy that cares for and respects local residents, protects the natural environment, celebrates cultural diversity and shares local values.

The draft SVS was due to go on public exhibition in March but COVID-19 shut down the local tourism industry.

“We could have gone ahead and put the SVS out for comment but at that time we had no tourism industry at all – it had literally been shut down overnight with no one having any idea about what the future would look like,” Byron Shire Mayor, Simon Richardson, said.

“We decided to put the SVS on hold while staff talked to local businesses about the impact of COVID-19 and until we could get an idea of what recovery might look like both domestically and internationally,” he said.

Council staff have drafted a Resilience Discussion Paper, which is accompanying the draft SVS.  It looks at the immediate impact of COVID-19 on visitor numbers and forecasts for recovery.

There were 2.4 million visitors to Byron Shire in 2019 with predictions that number would rise to 2.6 million if the COVID-19 pandemic had not occurred.  It’s estimated tourism numbers to the Byron Shire this year, taking into account COVID-19, will decrease by approximately 1.2 million.

“Because more than 90% of visitors to the Byron Shire are domestic travellers with 78% being day trippers from south east Queensland, Byron Shire could find its tourism industry recovering fairly quickly although this is entirely dependent on how COVID-19 plays out,” Mayor Richardson said.

“What we want people to do now is to read the draft SVS alongside the Resilience Discussion Paper and get back to us with comments,” he said.

The SVS is the culmination of two years of work which started with the Talking Future Tourism project that aimed to find out what residents, businesses and the industry wanted the local tourism industry look like in the future.

The Talking Future Tourism project received more than 1,500 responses from the community, 1,200 people taking part in kitchen table conversations and 26 randomly selected people taking part in a three day workshop.

The draft SVS and Resilience Discussion Paper are available on Council’s website.

The closing date for submissions is 27 November 2020.

For media enquiries contact Annie Lewis, Media and Communications Coordinator, on 6626 7320.