Fewer backpackers such as Tanja Volkart and Dominique Schwoerer from Switzerland and Jo Martin and Sarah Nielson from London are checking in with Peter May from Next Backpackers.
Fewer backpackers such as Tanja Volkart and Dominique Schwoerer from Switzerland and Jo Martin and Sarah Nielson from London are checking in with Peter May from Next Backpackers. Alistair Brightman

Tourism numbers falling

A DRAMATIC fall in the number of backpackers arriving in Hervey Bay by bus has been recorded by a Torquay-based accommodation provider.

Next Backpackers manager Mark Juppenlatz said for the past two months, about 500 fewer backpackers had been arriving by bus compared with last year.

According to figures informally collected each day by Next staff, who run shuttles to pick up backpackers from the Hervey Bay Transit Centre, the numbers arriving by bus have dropped from about 1800 in September last year to some 1300 in September this year and fallen from 2100 in October last year to 1500 last month.

“It's been a tough year,” Mr Juppenlatz said.

He cited many reasons for the drop, including the global financial crisis and its impact on the Australian tourism industry, the increased popularity of hiring campervans, the strength of the Rainbow Beach backpacker market and the strong Aussie dollar.

“They're not buying as much as they used to, they're not doing all the tours that they used to do,” Mr Juppenlatz said.

He said another factor was the cost of tours had increased from $95 for a Fraser Island day tour at the beginning of this decade to $165 now.

“What are the exact answers to the problem nobody knows. We just keep on doing what we have to do and hopefully we'll survive in 12 months' time.”

He said the reason many backpackers visited Rainbow Beach was that three major players in the backpacker travel market owned hostels there and paid big commissions to travel agents who booked backpackers into Rainbow Beach.

Mr Juppenlatz said Hervey Bay had to market itself to overcome the perception that it was a boring town and keep promoting the adventure tourism side of the area, such as kayaking and skydiving.

“It's not just Fraser Island, it's not just three months for whales – we've got to tell people all those other things we've got,” he said.

Mr Juppenlatz said the city also needed hotels and restaurants to open later to improve the nightlife for backpackers, should make the esplanade more user-friendly so tourists could kick a football on the fore shore and encourage more adventure activities such as bungy jumping off the end of the pier.



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