Boring? No way mate!

Brazilian model Larissa Artusi models at Buderim Forest Park.
Brazilian model Larissa Artusi models at Buderim Forest Park. Nicholas Falconer

EXCITING one day, boring the next?

Not the Sunshine Coast, mate!

In response to claims that a growing number of backpackers are finding Australia a yawn, Coast-based tourism operators say the high Australian dollar – and not a lack of excitement – is what’s hurting this key, high-yield market segment.

Tourism Noosa chief executive Steve Cooper says the Coast’s backpacker market is going through one of its toughest years in the last decade – a view that is shared by many of the region’s backpacker hostels.

Several hostels which spoke to the Daily revealed bookings were down up to 30% on last year, with the high Aussie dollar highlighted as the main cause of the decline.

And with backpackers being hit harder in the hip pocket, many are leaning on tourism operators to cut their prices and even throw in freebies.

The apparent spike in backpackers bad-mouthing Australia on social networking sites and online forums has prompted Sunshine Coast tourism boss Michael Denton to warn the region’s tourism operators to refrain from getting into online arguments with the knockers as such behaviour “never achieved anything”.

Reports of growing discontent among tourists over their Australian experience was a key topic of discussion at a major backpacker industry conference in Sydney earlier this month.

Delegates at the Adventure and Backpacker Industry Conference were told travellers were posting comments on the internet such as “I’m bored of Oz, I want to go back to South-East Asia” and the country “quickly loses its appeal”.

Coast-based hostels said a lot of their guests were bagging Australia, but the criticisms mostly centred on how expensive the country had become due to the high dollar.

Mooloolaba Beach Backpackers manager Zeke Rowland said many people in the industry were using the negative comments about Australia as an excuse for the sector’s downturn.

“But I think the Australian dollar being so high is a far bigger factor than a few people writing comments,” he said, adding his business was down between 10 to 20% on last year.

Noosa-based Dolphins Beach House owner Linda Staley said many of her guests were “really pushing the limit” in the search for a bargain because of a lack of funds.

Mr Denton advised tourism operators to invite the country’s critics to the Coast to experience what the region had to offer instead of getting into online arguments with them.

“In some ways it’s (the backpacker segment) reflective of the whole tourism market at the moment – we’ve endured some challenging times,” he said.

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