There has been an increase in international visitors coming to the Northern Rivers, but a decrease in domestic visitors and the time they spend here for the 2007 calendar year.

Figures released by Tourism NSW show the number of international visitors to the Northern Rivers is up by 5.9% to nearly 225,000. These visitors are staying a total of 1.6 million nights in the region. On average they spent seven nights each with an average spend of $79 each per night – up from $66 in 2006.

“It’s excellent to see both the spend and number of visitor nights increase, as these are both good indicators of better returns for our local businesses,” says CEO of Northern Rivers Tourism, Russell Mills.

“What is also interesting about the figures is the changing market share from different countries. 

“While the UK remains the region’s largest source of international visitors with nearly 26%, it is down from nearly 33% in 2006, while New Zealand’s share has gone up from 9.7% to 13.3%.”

Germany, the USA and Canada are also significant source markets for the region.

“On the domestic front however, changing domestic travel patterns seem to have had a negative impact on figures for the Northern Rivers across all fronts,” Mr Mills said.

Day trippers were down 4.3% to 2.7 million, overnight visitors were down by 2.1% to 1.8 million and there was a big drop in overnight stays to 6.5million nights – a drop of 18.4%.

“While our share of visitors in NSW has remained about the same, it was disappointing overnight stays were down,” Mr Mills said.

“Potential reasons for this are the growth in low-cost air travel, making it easier for people to take more frequent but shorter holidays and increase their travel overseas.

“The strength in our dollar has also stimulated overseas travel by Australians.

“The figures support our promotions about to begin in New Zealand and highlight the need for us as a region to organise and promote ourselves competitively against other domestic destinations in NSW and other states.”

After the floods and wet weather in the region over the first quarter of 2008, it is expected that figures in the next quarterly reports will not show an improvement.

Northern Rivers Tourism’s Flood Relief project – made possible with State, local and Federal government funding — includes a destination advertising campaign due to kick off at the end of April targeting  visitors from south-east Queensland, regional NSW and Sydney.

It is designed to offset the loss of business over summer and NRT has engaged local tourism associations and Visitor Centres to provide opportunities for tourism operators to participate with deals that can bring in extra tourism dollars. 

“As a region we need to be efficiently targeting both the growing international markets and the short-breaks domestic market, many of whom will be coming from Brisbane and south-east Queensland,” Mr Mills said.

“While government funding assistance and destination advertising surely helps, as an industry we need to start thinking about helping ourselves by recognising that marketing and promotion drives incremental business.

“This means tourism businesses also need to consider investment in marketing co-operatively for greater benefit.

“We need to give people more reasons to experience the Northern Rivers lifestyle for their next holidays.”