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Schoolies fuel accommodation boom

Byron Bay has enjoyed the company of a more discerning group of school leavers this year, at odds with the media hype surrounding the event. Pictured enjoying schoolies at Byron Bay this year are (from left) Sara Khan, 17, Alexis Jayne, 18, and Sarah Coffey, 18, all from Sydney.
Byron Bay has enjoyed the company of a more discerning group of school leavers this year, at odds with the media hype surrounding the event. Pictured enjoying schoolies at Byron Bay this year are (from left) Sara Khan, 17, Alexis Jayne, 18, and Sarah Coffey, 18, all from Sydney. Cathy Adams

BYRON Bay schoolies are fast losing their reputation for trashing hotel rooms and doing a runner, according to the Byron Visitor Centre.

And contrary to popular clichés, it appears the new generation of young school leavers would rather take in a little local culture than binge-drink on the beach.

Schoolies this year have been so well-behaved that Byron Bay landlords and property managers are welcoming them back with open arms.

With vacancies filling fast, the visitor centre’s accommodation officer, Claudine Clarke, says the 2011 schoolies season will be booked out by early next year.

Suggestions that school leavers now come to Byron Bay to ‘chill out’ rather than party hard on the Gold Coast appear to hold water, with many locals unable to distinguish this year’s sophisticated schoolies from the usual cosmopolitan backpacker trade.

“Most of them are so mature we can’t tell they are schoolies,” Ms Clarke said.

“There’s no way at that age we would have been that organised to book our end of school celebrations a year ahead,” she laughed.

“We get a lot of groups coming in to check out things like kayak tours and day trips to Nimbin.”

Ms Clarke said that while most accommodation and property managers had strict rules for schoolies, their worst fears had again proved unfounded and the industry was now beginning to view school leavers as a reliable seasonal market – although Byron’s high accommodation costs may play a factor in the cashed-up demographic of schoolies attracted to the Bay.

As reported in The Northern Star last week, some schoolies are paying up to $5000 a week for a house, plus an extra $2000 deposit, meaning in many cases parents are liaising directly with accommodation providers and property owners.

With a week to go before the schoolies celebrations wind down, the combined low-key strategy of Byron Shire Council, the Byron Schoolies HUB, the Byron Holiday Letting Organisation and police and emergency services appears to have been a resounding success.

Police, paramedics and HUBvolunteers all gave schoolies an A+ report card and the holiday letting group had the fewest complaints through the 24-hour Noisy Neighbour Hotline in its five-year history.



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