Over the past decade, tourism in the Northern Rivers has enjoyed a steady yet considerable growth in tourist numbers and the development of new quality and distinctive product. Byron Bay is a destination with global recognition. The Tweed area enjoys a strong relationship with its neighbour the Gold Coast by offering experiences that are distinctive and different yet compatible with what the Gold Coast market seeks. Coastal towns, such as Yamba, are experiencing growth in their traditional markets and have just been discovered by higher yielding markets.

Ballina Shire Council -Tourism

The Opportunity

The very exciting aspect of this for the small to medium entrepreneur is the size and scope of the future. Unlike some other regional destinations offering a mix of coastal and hinterland product, the steady progress of the Northern Rivers has protected the region’s natural assets. Now that nature-based, eco and cultural tourism are accepted niches in Australia’s product range, the Northern Rivers retains a full palette of natural attributes to tap into. We also have the experience of other region’s to learn and benefit from.

There is not another region that has such potential. The region currently attracts more tourists than either Tasmania or the Northern Territory:

  • four airports service the Northern Rivers
  • 4 million people live within 1 to 2 hours drive and a further 6 million are within a short flight
  • a subtropical climate, but virtually tropical in character and lifestyle
  • world heritage listed rainforests
  • some of Australia’s best beaches and surfing
  • a diverse, eclectic and original art, craft & music industry
  • over 300 villages and localities

All of these stunning features combine to make up a very exciting region within which to start a tourism business. The region is preparing itself for a strong future, with innovative future planning and responsive economic and investment organisations.

The region can accommodate a range of development types from the large and extrovert to the small, petite and “natural”. It depends on the setting (both landscape and economic), the community and the local authority in which the development is proposed. Consistent with retaining the region’s distinctive characteristics, different communities seek different types and densities of growth. This is a plus for tourism ensuring the region retains its superb endemic qualities.

Investment Opportunities in Eco-Tourism

Accommodation offering either eco-tourism/nature-based experiences or the facilities of a health retreat, or both, pick up on product themes already established in the region, and are part of its developing tourism reputation.

There are already a number of eco-tourism/nature-based ‘retreats’ (especially in the northern half of the region) which have been very successful. For example, Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat is a seven-cabin up-market retreat, west of Murwillumbah, which has won awards in the ‘Unique Accommodation’ and ‘Environmental Tourism’ categories at the Regional, State & National Awards over the past several years.

The local alternative health industry has been identified as having significant growth potential to become a major economic sector for the Northern Rivers. Byron Bay, Lismore and several other towns have extensive listings of natural therapies, treatments, courses and classes covering a wide range of complementary medicine, alternative health cosmetic and wellness services and products. This offers the tourist the opportunity to avail themselves to an indulgence holiday focused on their own well being.

Research and Resources

Investment reports

In 2003 Invest Northern Rivers and Tourism NSW released a package to assist investors and operators to develop new accommodation product.This included a report for Local and State Government Agencies (the consent agencies) who have responsibility for the approval of this type of development, to create a co-operative and productive dialogue with potential investors/developers and consent agencies. Similarly, other reports have been made available to Local and State Government so that they will know more about the context of any forthcoming development applications.

To ensure that the region’s existing ‘clean and green’ image is not just maintained but enhanced, the Northern Rivers has embraced the principles of ecological sustainable development. In so doing, the region is assured of remaining a great place to live and invest in.

Tourism reports

NSW Far North Coast Nature Based and Eco Tourism Plan – A Strategy and Implementation Plan. July 1995. Authors: Manidis Roberts Consultants, Jenny Calkin and Associates, commissioned by NRRDB.

Regional Tourism Spending the Benefits – Tourism futures Northern Rivers, NSW 2001. Authors: CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, Southern Cross University. Sponsored by INR.

A Natural Choice – potential eco-tourism lodging and health retreat sites in the Northern Rivers NSW. June 2001. Authors: Stephen Fletcher and Associates Planning Consultants. Sponsored by Nature Tourism Taskforce of the Northern Rivers NSW in association with INR, Department of Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business and Tourism NSW.

If you wish to obtain any reports or resources on this page email us at info@rdanorthernrivers.org.au or phone 02 6622 4011.


 Image(s) courtesy of Ballina Shire Council