VACANCY signs are already beginning to appear on motel and holiday accommodation but drive-in visitors and refugees from the Queensland floods are swelling tourism numbers.
Coffs Coast Visitor Information Centre manager Brian Bowers said at this stage it appeared as though Coffs Harbour was tracking on par with last year for holiday visitors but next week would be the test, because at this stage it was a lot lighter for bookings, which was traditional.
“I was a bit nervous when it (holiday season) started, but it seems to have picked up quite well,” Mr Bowers said yesterday.
“A lot of people are driving in on ‘spec’ looking for accommodation.
“The town is kicking along very strongly.
“Today was a very busy day in the Centre with people looking for things to see and do, as well as accommodation.”
He said the majority of people calling in to the Centre were domestic Australians as Europeans generally spent the Christmas holiday at home.
Recent years have seen a pattern of many families taking shorter Christmas holidays in paid accommodation, where they are paying peak tariffs, rather than staying away for the traditional fortnight.
Mr Bowers said Coffs Harbour was also benefiting from visitors who had been forced to cancel their bookings in Queensland towns affected by flooding, with some visitors even avoiding the Gold Coast and staying in Coffs Harbour instead.
He said while vacancy signs might be appearing in the morning, by evening tourist accommodation was generally full, with people often forced to pay more than they had hoped.
Urunga Visitor Information Centre, the busiest of Bellingen Shire’s four VICs, had a record number of visitors on Boxing Day, catering for 800 travellers, compared to their previous record of 775.
The chair of the Urunga Visitor Information Centre, Vic Paterson, said for the whole of 2010 they had seen a six per cent decline in tourist numbers, compared to 2009, which was not a large decline.
He said the reduction had mainly occurred in school holiday periods and they had also noticed it in numbers using the Urunga Driver Reviver station, based at the Centre,but over Christmas, they had been ‘flat chat’.
“Since then it has declined – it is part of a general trend – people are not moving around so much,” he said.
Mr Paterson said the use of the internet had greatly reduced holiday accommodation bookings through the tourist centre.