The North Coast of New South Wales has been through a lot in the last couple of years. With almost biblical ferocity the coast has been hit by fires, floods and COVID-19, leaving much of the tourism and hospitality industry and many small businesses struggling. You can help support the recovery effort on the North Coast by simply taking a holiday. That’s right, you can change lives, save jobs and businesses by enjoying yourself and taking a holiday. Pretty good, right?! To help get you started we thought we would talk to Byron local tourism business Explore Byron Bay to get all the insider info on Byron.
Explore Byron Bay is a cultural tourism business owned by Tommy Cramner who offers Aboriginal guided walking tours in Byron Bay. The tours are led by Delta Kay, a local Arakwal Bundjalung woman. We sat down with Tommy and Delta to learn more about the business, COVID 19 and flooding impact on the region and ways you can support the North Coast recovery effort.
So Tommy, What did business look like pre-impact of bushfires, floods and COVID-19?
Prior to the recent floods and Covid 19 restrictions, we were running approximately 8 tours per week at mostly full capacity. The summer months were generally our busiest periods, though we had consistent bookings throughout the year.
Can you describe how your community and business has been impacted by the floods?
Both our community and our tours were significantly impacted by the recent flood events. The floods sadly left many people with severely damaged homes and limited alternative accommodation. During this time, tours were put on hold while we supported people within our community. In the weeks that followed, we had consistent rain which unfortunately meant that more tours had to be cancelled. In addition, 2 of our tour locations were damaged, leaving lots of important native trees either heavily broken or destroyed.
What has been the short-term effect of the lack of tourism and what do you feel will be the long-term knock-on effect of what has happened over the past 12 months?
The short-term effect has seen many tourism businesses either reduce their operating hours or close their doors completely. We have had a significant number of guests cancel tours because they either contracted COVID 19 or they were considered a close contact. With all the cancellations, we have been fortunate that some people kept their booking as credit instead of being refunded. We feel that most tourism businesses will continue to be affected for many months to come. Sadly, we are not seeing nearly as many travellers visit Byron Bay and guests are reporting that they are still unsure when they will travel to the area.
What does tourism and in particularly drive tourism mean for you, your community and your business? Why is it important? Tourism is considered a key industry and major contributor to Byron Bay’s economy. Considering that Byron usually has over 1 million visitors per year, tourism supports a wide range businesses and employees who rely on this industry to prosper for their income.
How can Australians help support your community and your business over the next 12 months?
We would love to encourage more Australians to visit Byron Bay and to book a local tourism experience.
What is Byron Bay best-known for? How do you think the locals and visitors see the place, is there anything you want visitors to know about it?
Byron Bay is well-known for its beautiful beaches, picturesque lighthouse, surf & restaurant culture and alternative lifestyle. However, many travellers come to Byron and miss out on experiencing the local indigenous culture which is what really makes this place so magical and unique.
That is so true which brings us to you Delta what do you love about working in the business sharing local First Nations culture? Working on Country, sharing Arakwal Bundjalung culture so locals and visitors respect and understand Country like we do, this includes collaborating with other local businesses.
Why and how did you get into tourism?
I grew up in nature learning from my Elders, eating my native foods and listening to stories. My work as Education Officer with National Parks and Wildlife Service in Byron Bay allowed me to deliver an authentic hands-on educational program to schools through Arakwal Dolphin Dreaming. My boss proudly took me to all the tourism awards, where I met many local tourism operators who encouraged me all the way, the last awards I attended is when Arakwal Dolphin Dreaming received silver at the Australian tourism awards in 2016. In 2020 I started my first tour with business partner Tommy, he was a gentle push to finally do what I’ve always wanted to do.
What do you love about your tours?
Each tour has a unique story of my family’s connection, the coastal views are stunning and the excitement when you see our wild dolphins and whales, echidnas or sea eagles cruising overhead.
What surprises people most on your tours?
When I remove the tablecloth to reveal the abundance of locally source bushtucker that I gathered for tasting. Also hearing stories of how my people survived through colonisation in Byron Bay.
What can people expect on your experience?
An interesting and authentic tour with cultural and personal stories, bushtucker tasting and gorgeous views all within our beautiful national parks that are joint-managed with Arakwal people and NPWS.
To help support the recovery effort and learn more about Explore Byron Bay experiences and tours visit Explore Byron Bay on Welcome to Country.