Byron named among world’s worst for overtourism

Byron Bay features on a new global map showing locations suffering the greatest rates of overtourism on the planet.

The northern NSW coastal town is one of two Australian destinations – the other being Uluru – among 98 identified worldwide to be struggling with the burden of too many visitors.

UK tour company Responsible Travel created the map based on news reports of overtourism from around the world, backed by information from an October study by the European Committee on Transport and Tourism.

Byron Bay’s popularity as a retirement, sea change and holiday destination saw it overtake Sydney this year as the expensive place in Australia to buy a house, it’s median property price of $987,000 allegedly forcing many locals out of the housing market and out of town.

The region’s shortage of affordable housing is being exacerbated by property owners turning long-term rentals into more lucrative short-term lets to accommodate the tourist influx, local mayor Simon Richardson saying he is fearful the trend will damage the community’s “heart and character”.

Byron attracts more than two million tourists annually who spending more than $700 million. Almost 20 percent of all houses are holiday lets and, according to Byron Shire Council, long-term rentals are disappearing for all but the most affluent.

Responsible Travel says overtourism is often mistakenly thought to be a European problem. 

The travel company found the phenomenon to be an issue on six of the world’s seven continents, with only Antarctica, itself under threat from a burgeoning tour market, not currently on the list. 

Uluru attracts around 250,000 visitors per year, many choosing to climb the rock despite the opposition of the land’s traditional owners, the Anangu people.

Tourists will be banned from climbing the sandstone monolith from October in a more sustainable approach to the World Heritage-listed site.

Other destinations within the Pacific region identified as under pressure include Hawaii, Easter Island and New Zealand’s Matapouri Mermaid Pools, with Bali and Komodo Island among the Asian locations highlighted. 

“With forecasts of a 30 per cent growth in tourists over the next ten years, it’s hard not to conclude that we – tourists and residents – are facing a crisis,” Responsible Travel CEO Justin Francis told The Telegraph. 

Last October, Byron Shire Council moved to end the use of secondary dwellings owned by Byron residents as unauthorised holiday rentals, introducing fines of up to $6000 for non-compliance in a move slammed by Airbnb as “heavy handed” and potentially damaging to local tourism.

Mayor Richardson said at the time: “Holiday letting in Byron Shire has exploded in recent years and this is resulting in significant adverse impacts on our community in terms of amenity, character and available and affordable long-term rental accommodation for residents.

 “Something needs to be done to protect our community’s right to residential areas that are filled with neighbours not tourists.”

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5 years ago

This should be a warning to every Local Council in Australia, don’t allow our neighbourhoods to be overrun by transient tourists, neighbourhoods are for residents not tourists. Residents have a right to live in their own homes without their neighbourhood being turned into an unsupervised quasi hotel area.
If council wants to promote tourism to an area make sure there is appropriate tourist facilities, accommodation and infrastructure first. Don’t allow or impose tourists and party houses into residential areas where residents are trying to live their normal lives as working families, retirees and normal neighbours.
We all know that people on holidays want to enjoy themselves, sit outside on balconies, and drink eat and talk loudly, the larger the group the more unsettling it is on the neighbourhood. Hotels and resorts have security, rules, 24 hour staff, neighbours subjected to a short term rental next door are by default the ones that have to call for help when something goes wrong. Imagine your elderly parents or grandparents being subjected to the anxiety of having unknown strangers turning up next door every few days and being subjected to this type of behaviour they would not be able to cope. I know that it can become a nightmare living next to one and I am not elderly.

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