New strategies driving tourism boom in Coffs this summer
COFFS Coast holiday parks have been at full occupancy for most of the summer and it's not just the usual lure of the region's iconic beaches bringing the crowds, but major events like the Big Bash League.
Park Beach, which recorded massive numbers last summer, has had a small increase in visitors this year, while Sawtell Holiday Park's occupancy rate has risen 10 per cent.
Coffs Harbour City Council industry and destination development section leader Fiona Barden welcomed the increase but lamented the fact it was the bushfires devastating the south coast that had caused many tourists to make the switch this year to Coffs.
"We are very sympathetic in regards to our southern counterparts," she said.
"Christmas is a time where everyone goes on holidays. Some local operators are saying their visitors have told them they would normally holiday south but they've had to choose somewhere north this time."
Ms Barden said the council had been getting calls from potential visitors concerned about whether it was safe to visit the Coffs Coast.
She said this had reduced forward bookings for accommodation.
"One operator explained that if you ask him for a booking today the park will be full but if you ask for next week it wouldn't be, and that's got a lot to do with all the different risks and warnings in place.
"It's certainly caused a question for a lot of people but I guess, looking more optimistically, most of the operators have been busier than last year and local tourism attractions have had record days this summer."
The Coffs Coast recently hosted the Big Bash League - the first time the Sydney Sixers has taken a match to a regional venue.
It was a sellout, with almost 10,000 people making it to the big day.
"There has to be recognition that some of the experiences on offer in Coffs this year have been different. The Big Bash was a massive boost for us," Ms Barden said.
Looking ahead, she said there were several events and plans in the pipeline to ensure Coffs' tourism economy thrived in 2020.
The Screenwave International Film Festival is currently under way, the Elton John concert is just around the corner, and annual award-winning cultural events such as Curryfest have new plans in the works.
Ms Barden said the council would also soon have a special announcement involving an award that will air on television in mid-February.
The council is currently promoting the city through television advertisements in Queensland and has started working with Tigerair to promote Coffs Harbour in the Melbourne market.
Ms Barden said the most important message she wanted to get out was that Coffs residents should consider spending their holidays in their home town.
"Interestingly, this summer there's been a lot of people spending Christmas at home. It's really important for locals to know they have everything right here," she said.
"It's so important for everyone to get out in Coffs and experience different things. It's a positive for local operators, so please keep that up."
According to the 2018-19 annual visitor survey from Tourism Research Australia, the north coast was the third most popular tourist destination in the country, with almost six million overnight visitors recorded in the 12 months to March 2019 - an increase of 8 per cent from the previous year.
The 2019-20 statistics will be released later this year.