Bundy's winning back backpackers

BUNDABERG North Burnett Tourism's marketing team will try to reverse the region's tarnished image as a backpacker destination at a Sydney tourism expo this weekend.

The tourism body's general manager, James Corvan, said the region had suffered at the hands of bad publicity spreading around the world through social networking sites, as well as the rise in the Australian dollar.

“Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do about the currency. We're continuing to try to work hard to get people here, but the youth market is very price sensitive,” he said.

While 90 per cent of the region's tourism market was made up of domestic travellers, backpackers were important to have in the mix.

“This has been a growing market over the years. We have been slowly working on increasing the international visitor numbers,” Mr Corvan said.

However, he said negative picking experiences had created some bad publicity and this would take time to repair.

Both the local agricultural and backpacker hostel sectors needed to continue to work together to create rewarding, positive experiences for backpackers, he said.

Mr Corvan said the fluid nature of social networking sites meant that any bad experiences would quickly spread.

In addition to marketing the benefits of the “Harvest Trail” to offset holiday expenses, tourism representatives would ramp up marketing for the start of the turtle-watching season, focusing on capturing more of the Brisbane and southern capital city markets.

Meanwhile, Gapyear.com founder Tom Griffiths this week said backpackers were using social networking sites and online forums to spread negative messages about Australia and encouraging travellers to go to New Zealand or South-East Asia.

He told the Adventure and Backpacker Industry Conference in Sydney the east coast of Australia was becoming “the new Ibiza” – referring to the sex and party island off the coast of Spain popular with British “lager louts”.

Backpackers make up 11 per cent of all international visitors to Australia and spend $3.4 billion a year.



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