Spread the joy
By DAVID MOASE
That's Coffs Coast Marketing manager Rob Cleary's tip for keeping tourists coming back despite news that rising petrol costs are making holidays more expensive.
And if fuel prices at $1.40 a litre are making motorists more likely to holiday closer to home, local tourism operators are yet to see any negative effects.
Responding yesterday to an NRMA Motoring and Services survey showing high pump prices will impact on the holiday plans of nearly 50 per cent of motorists, Mr Cleary said Coffs Coast residents had to work together to keep tourists coming here.
"The impact of high petrol prices, either now or down the track, will be a challenge," Mr Cleary said.
"For the people who do come to the Coffs Coast, it is up to everyone here to ensure we give them value for money.
"It is important we all ? whether it is a newsagent greeting customers, people at accommodation houses or working at attractions ? do what we can to make tourists' time here special.
"Things like a nice smile and a pleasant attitude really help.
"The number one influence on people's travel plans is word of mouth and that has to be earned, it can't be bought."
According to NRMA director Wendy Machin, the results of the survey of motorists confirmed the worst fears of tourism operators.
She said service station owners and hotel and caravan park operators had been talking for some time about a drop-off in driving holiday makers.
"It seems their concerns were right on the money," she said.
"You could say the family holiday is the latest victim of skyrocketing petrol prices."
Mr Cleary said concerns over petrol prices could also have a positive effect for Coffs Harbour.
"Perhaps Sydney people who would normally drive to Queensland will revise their plans and visit a closer destination like the Coffs Coast," he said.
Visitor numbers and bookings at tourist parks indicate any downturn produced by fuel prices is some way off yet.
Julie Ellis, conference co-ordinator at Darlington Beach Resort at Arrawarra, said she was struggling to fit in the number of people who wanted to stay.
"Most of our places for the September school holidays are locked in and at Christmas we will be chockers," she said.
"It has been busy in the two weeks of the Queensland school holidays and we are expecting a big changeover when those holidays end and the NSW holidays start.
"We are also still getting lots of business from people driving past who decide they would like to stay."