JEOPARDISING THE UNIQUE VIBE OF BYRON BAY AND ITS TOURISM POINT OF DIFFERENCE
Byron Bay is a place that has forged a reputation of being different to most other towns. Its’ reputation is based on decades of striving to develop a vibrant and eclectic community, promoting low key tourism, where one could relax and enjoy an unique, alternative ‘vibe’. Part of this is the famous struggles to oppose being a home to fast food chains. It is a reputation that is known nationally and it is part of the folklore of the town. This reputation is what separates Byron bay from any other town in Australia and provides the highly desired tourism destination ‘point of difference.’ This is expressed clearly in the current edition of Lonely Planet, explaining to potential visitors that, “Byron Bay’s reputation precedes it like no other place in Australia….Byron’s unique vibe has a way of converting even the most cynical.”
Being unique is crucial for a small town that is dependent on Tourism for its economic survival.
Byron Bay’s dependence on Tourism is clear: most recent estimates placed the economic value of the visitor economy at $400,000,000 a year. This approximately $400 million per year industry entails over 1300 businesses (Tourism Research Australia, 2007 figures.)
The ‘unique vibe’ identified by Lonely Planet has recently been quantified. A recent visitor profile and satisfaction report completed in 2011 provided solid evidence of the value of a unique local atmosphere. This visitor satisfaction survey showed the most satisfying aspect of visitors experience of Byron was the ‘local atmosphere’- 89% of visitors were either fairly or very satisfied with the local atmosphere, or ‘vibe’ in Byron. This is well above the national average. This ‘vibe’ is well known and shared by travel guides, travel agents and friends of potential visitors. 10% stated a main reason for visiting was the ‘undeveloped’ nature of the Shire. 31% of visitors surveyed in 2011 used testimonial or travel guide internet sites for their information, thus a change in recommendation could have massive impacts on visitor numbers. Also, 18% of visitors surveyed stated they visited due to Byron being recommended by friends or travel agents. Though Byron Bay has some chains (some resisted previously by the community and council), the huge fast food chains symbolise far more than national clothes chain stores for example. This is borne out by the intense media attention given to this issue, with major news network coverage extending from Sydney to Brisbane.
The risk to the economic sustainability of Byron Bay cannot be overestimated. For every 1% of people who may decide that now KFC is in Byron it really is the straw that breaks the unique camel’s back and there really is no point of difference and thus go elsewhere, Byron will lose $4,000,000 per year. With the existence of KFC (and surely others if they are able to open), the crucial point of difference is threatened. Imagine the impact on Byron Bay’s massive backpacker visitor market if an updated description of Byron Bay in Lonely Planet that states the unique vibe is a thing of the past. Is it worth risking?
March 15, 2013
Proponent angered by KFC refusal
The bid to open a KFC in Byron’s CBD was knocked back yesterday, during an at times rowdy Byron Shire Council meeting.
Seven of the nine councillors voted with the staff recommendation to reject the proposal over insufficient car parking (Crs Hunter and Woods against).
During morning public access, the Byron United (business chamber) president Paul Waters spoke against the application, along with another business owner.
‘It’s a bad fit with Byron, especially as this is renown as a health and wellbeing region,’ he said.
The debate was chaired by deputy mayor Di Woods after mayor Simon Richardson declared a non-pecuniary interest. Cr Richardson was a vocal campaigner against the development, which was proposed for the former Byron Music building near Byron Woolies.
Other issues that drew overwhelming public opposition included large street signage, which would have required tree removal, and lack of toilet facilities.
The proposed development sparked a petition with more than 4,000 signatures opposing it, collated and submitted by resident Simon Seven, who set up signing points on Byron’s main streets.
Of 350 individual submissions sent to Council, just two supported the KFC.
On taking the chair, Cr Woods asked councillors to defer the matter so staff and the applicant could discuss the parking issue with staff.
‘I don’t see myself going there to eat that type of food, but we need to give them the opportunity to negotiate,’ she said.
Cr Woods added that it could become another court case like Mullumbimby Woolworths: the retail giant took the council to the Land and Environment Court when they refused their application, and eventually won.
‘I don’t want to go through that again,’ she said.
But staff appeared confident. Planning chief Ray Darney said, when asked about the parking, ‘We have done our sums’. He said the applicant was ‘contesting our figures’.
‘Council have written to the applicant about the parking,’ he said, and with regard to Council’s report, ‘our control plan can be defended’.
In the middle of Cr Duncan Dey’s speech against, someone – presumably the applicant – interjected from the gallery. ‘The calculations are wrong!’ he shouted.
In an aggressive manner, the middle aged man in the back row demanded to address Council.
It was then that the usually quietly spoken council watcher Jim Beatson, also in the gallery, responded with, ‘Can we eject this yob from the gallery?’
After the interjections subsided, Cr Alan Hunter made his case for allowing the development.
‘This is like Woolies again,’ he said. ‘These guys have got the resources and experience. However, that’s not a reason to be frightened. It wouldn’t be in their interest not to have enough car parks.’ He added that it wasn’t fair to refuse a discussion.
Cr Paul Spooner also sided with Cr Woods, saying that the applicant hadn’t been provided enough of an opportunity for discussion.
‘A letter is a one way discussion,’ he said, referring to the letter of rejection that was sent.
Cr Chris Cubis, a man never afraid to speak his mind, disagreed.
‘There is a difference of opinion between staff and applicant. We shouldn’t keep deferring things. We expect staff to make correct decisions. No more talks.’
The ball finally landed back in Cr Woods’s court. She spoke of her concern that the applicant’s letter and the assessment report were removed from agenda.
‘Their [point of] difference is on parking contributions. The car park is pretty full. How can you create more parking in the area? You can’t. You make contributions for more parking elsewhere. But this looks like it’s about us not liking KFC. I want a proper process.’
When the vote was taken, the aspiring fast food chicken entrepreneur stood up and strode out in disgust.
March 14, 2013
March 10, 2013
Jan 8, 2013
Dec 6, 2012
NSW town rejects KFC
Byron Bay turns its nose up at KFC
Sydney Morning Herald
KFC: welcome or not in Byron Bay?
Byron Shire News