Byron Bay still popular despite low vaccination rates

It may be touted as the anti-vax capital of Australia, but Byron Bay is still at the top of many people’s holiday wish lists as travel restrictions ease this weekend and the NSW and Victoria regions. are preparing for a wave of visitors.

Destination NSW and online agencies booking.com and Wotif all have the North Coast romance at number one on their lists of the most sought after regional destinations in NSW – despite its vaccination rates still lagging behind the rest of the world. State.

The city reaffirmed its popularity amid a surge of bookings for late November, December and January for favorite vacation spots like the South Coast of New South Wales, the Central Coast and Hunter Valley, and the Peninsula from Mornington to Victoria, Phillip Island and the Bellarine Peninsula.

“But Byron has an appeal to all Australians that transcends any other human factor,” said Rob Jeffress, president of the Australian Short Term Rental Association. “We will still see the same numbers as at any other time. He is an Australian icon.”

The double vaccination rate in Byron is 55.3% and rising rapidly, but still stands in stark contrast to the rates of 85% in NSW and 80% in Victoria.

Byron Bay-based Janelle Montano, who runs short-term accommodation company Your Luxury Escape, says there has been a rush to vaccinate with a new pop-up clinic and the awareness that non-vaccines can be excluded from jobs, cafes and bars. .

“We got bad publicity about being the non-vaxxed capital… and I think that may have affected our bookings to some extent,” she said. “People are a little afraid to come here, especially if they have children under the age of 12.

“But the anti-vaxxers are a minority, and they are more in the Mullumbimby area and we are now catching up.”

Travel-hungry Sydneysiders and Melburnians are now flooding agencies with accommodation reservations and cancellation requests where everything is full.

Booking.com Australia Area Manager Melissa Ellison said: “We are delighted to see that the appetite for travel is greater than ever with the opportunity for Australians to experience the world again. been together. It’s amazing how the desire to return to travel remains so strong, and we are expecting a very busy travel time. “

Their site has seen Byron, Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbor, Newcastle and Yamba the most requested in New South Wales, and Victoria, Halls Gap, Warrnambool, Apollo Bay, Bright and Lorne. In Wotif, it is Byron and the North Coast, the Northern Rivers, the South Coast, Newcastle and the Hunter Valley, as well as the Mornington Peninsula, Great Ocean Road, Geelong, Gippsland and Daylesford.

“There is no doubt that this year’s summer vacation period will be one of the busiest yet,” said Daniel Finch, Managing Director of Wotif. “Australians prefer intra-state vacations and road trips closer to home, where they can confidently book and quickly reassess their travel plans, if necessary. However, interest in interstate travel has grown. increased in recent weeks, as traveler confidence grows.

“Looking at this year’s trends, the latest data from Wotif.com shows that coastal favorites from New South Wales and Victoria continue to be the most popular. However, more than in previous years, we are seeing a growing interest in regional and domestic destinations in both states. , like Albury NSW and the Victoria Grampians with an increase in interest of over 150 percent. “

With so many Victorian favorites already heavily booked, Visit Victoria CEO Brendan McClements suggests travelers go “the road less traveled” and try to explore new, lesser-known vacation spots, perhaps around Murray. , Port Fairy and Gippsland.

“People, we know, are very keen to reconnect with the regions and maybe they should go to places they hadn’t thought of before,” he said. “There may be a bit of trepidation about vaccinations, but much of the Victoria area has a higher rate even than Melbourne.

“We also encourage travel operators to be proactive with highly visible signage on the importance of dual vaccinations and certificates, so people know what to expect. And for those who travel, we want them to think about it. before we left home and we launched our Travel Kind initiative, reminding people to be kind to operators who have done things hard. ”

Many hosts in the regions have also called in specialist cleaners to allay concerns.

The COVID-19 Whiz cleaning company says antimicrobial misting can remove virus from surfaces for 30 days. Its spokesperson, Stephen Giderson, said, “There has been a lot of demand from the vacation rental industry in the NSW and Victoria areas. Visitors want to feel safe and this gives them an extra layer of security and confidence, especially in places like Byron. “

In New South Wales, the short-term rental platform Stayz reports that towns like Brunswick Heads, Yamba, Port Macquarie, Jervis Bay and Mollymook are completely sold out for Christmas, while in Victoria, Port Phillip Island n more than 5% of vacation homes to book.

“The trend of travel to your own state will continue this summer according to our demand data,” says Simone Scoppa, Stayz travel expert. “But heading into the second week of January, most areas of NSW have over 40% of vacation homes to book, so this is a key time to seek a break.”

With the strong demand for regional beds, prices have also increased for some. Residential rents rose in most markets, so short-term rentals had to rise to follow suit, advises Jeffress.

“Also, people may have bought their properties recently, so as new operators they will want a return on their investment,” he said. “But even when places seem full, vacationers can still find gaps, and maybe homeowners will put their homes up for a short time to help.”

Airbnb Short-Term Letters agrees that travelers often look beyond their favorite places to take a break.

“While traditional vacation destinations continue to be popular, guests are also looking for stays in lesser-known places that may be slightly further away,” says Susan Wheeldon, National Director for Australia and New Zealand.

“In Victoria, areas like Rye, Apollo Bay and Bright are good examples, while in New South Wales there is enthusiasm for places like Lennox Head and Nelson Bay. As travel opens up, Airbnb hosts are eager to roll out their welcome mats to help guests enjoy all their area has to offer and earn much needed tourism dollars by local businesses. “

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