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Date set for regional tourism restart, Byron Bay to lead recovery

“Northern NSW was one of the last places in Australia to see hotel occupancies fall, and will be one of the first to see them return. It’s because our demand is a lot more sustainable than almost every other destination.”

More than 2.2 million tourists visit Byron Shire each year contributing $805 million to the local economy and 2600 jobs, according to Destination Byron.

While NSW has not closed its borders, Queensland’s decision to keep its closed has been labelled “ridiculous” by Mr Barilaro. Mr Jones said Queenslanders tended to be daytrippers rather than overnight visitors to Byron.

Mark LaBrooy, the co-owner of Three Blue Ducks at The Farm at Ewingsdale, said the restaurant will reopen to diners this week to “give staff something to do”. But he said the limit of 10 diners was not sustainable.

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Francesca Webster, the general manager of Raes on Wategos at Byron, said occupancy at the boutique hotel had dropped from 90 per cent to zero following the introduction of restrictions.

“Whilst this was a hard hit on our operation, staff and business momentum, it was the necessary thing to do,” she said.

The state government’s tourism agency has launched a campaign to promote tourism across the state.

The “Love NSW from Home” advertisement features surfing on the South Coast, skiing at Perisher and wine tasting in the Hunter Valley.

Byron Shire mayor Simon Richardson said the coronavirus restrictions had been a “complete disaster” from a tourism perspective, with 90 per cent of shops closed over Easter, Byron Bay Bluesfest cancelled and Splendour in the Grass music festival moved from July to October.

But he expected the region to be one of the first to recover, with its nature-based experiences and health and wellness offerings attracting visitors.

“What people are looking to visit are the places and experiences we offer,” he said.

with Alexandra Smith

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