All posts by Mike Barrow

Mike arrived in Sydney in 1989 as a typical British backpacker with $17 and one phone number. He also decided Sydney was paradise living in a three bedroom unit with 17 other backpackers. He eventually managed to get a proper job in a small backpacking publishing company. After spending four years trying to get residency, Mike finally 'got in' and set up his own company, Travel Maps Australia in 1993. In 2000 the Company rebranded to THE WORD and in 2014 started The Byte. Mike lives in Sydney's northern beaches, keeps fit and healthy and wouldn't live anywhere else.

Yass queens: Aussie town’s quirky name breaks down barriers and drives tourism

The expression ‘Yass Queen’ conjures up images of pop star Lady Gaga, New York fashion, and divas.

But now, the New South Wales farming town of Yass, which has just 6,600 residents, is finding unexpected benefits from the phrase that might be endearingly hollered at gay bars in Sydney.

Key points:

  • Yass shot to international fame when featured in an episode of US series Queer Eye because of its likeness to the expression ‘Yass queen’
  • Businesses say it has attracted more people to the town, and has given the LGBTIQ community more confidence “to own their identity”
  • A social science researcher says the town’s exposure will make it safer for young people to be themselves

The town name’s similarity to a popular expression within the LGBTQI community — ‘Yass Queen’, for the uninitiated, is the flamboyant way of saying ‘yes, queen’ is bringing economic and social benefits to Yass, and locals are starting to cash in on it.

It shot to internet fame with millions of hits online after Netflix’s Queer Eye filmed a mini-makeover episode in the town last year.

“Because they have such a following [overseas], people actually come to Australia and come specifically to go to the town of Yass,” Yass Valley Council Mayor, Rowena Abbey, said.

Yass Tourism has described the new-found fame as a unique marketing opportunity, especially with its growing Rainbow market.

Cr Abbey said the town was not expecting the response it has had. 

“Since the Fab Five came to town we now have cafes open on a Sunday because people just take a day trip out here, they stand in front of the Yass sign, I still see it either end of town as they get a photo taken,” she said.

“Last count was over a million Youtube hits and 500,000 Instagram hits, which is great advertising as it costs us nothing but some time and energy and welcoming people to our town.”

The local council put a tour together to attract fans, known as the ‘Queer-eye-tinerary’ online, allowing people to follow the footsteps of the Fab Five.

Shops are opening longer on weekends, local tourism is taking advantage of the buzz, and the young queer community is also reaping benefits.

And the evidence lies in people’s geo-tagging on social media. 

“People are coming to Yass to have a look at the pub the boys did over, they are having a look at Yass, they are getting a photo of themselves outside the Yass sign and that stuff is fun and quirky, and it definitely translates to business,” Cr Abbey said.

Yass cafe owner and queer community member Sophie Peer said the town had embraced the quirky connection its name had with the rainbow community.

“Certainly seeing the young rainbow community of Yass walk with their head a little higher that week and in the weeks after [thinking] ‘We’re not the only fabulous ones, we can wear great clothes and own ourselves and own our identity’.”

Social science researcher from the Yass Valley, Saan Ecker, said the town’s exposure made it a safer place for the young rainbow community. 

“[They] are feeling their way through this journey and the more of this sort of visibility and LGBTQI-friendly stuff that happens, the safer those young people are going to be,” Dr Ecker said. 

She also helped with a study into the psychological impact of the marriage equality debate on LGBTQI people and their allies.

“There was a statistically significant increase in psychological distress during that time, particularly among young people,” Dr Ecker said. 

She said the stress was greater for people in rural areas, but that towns like Yass were a leading example of an accepting community.

Source: ABC Rural

Sourced by Mike Barrow

DO NOT feed the kangaroos. You are killing them

Wildlife authorities warn tourists feeding native animals at one of Western Australia‘s most famous beaches are “killing them with kindness” in search of the perfect selfie. 

Key points:

  • The ABC has witnessed several overseas tourists feeding kangaroos bananas, nuts, carrots and even chocolate.
  • Authorities warn kangaroos can become very ill from eating human food and rangers can impose fines of up to $1,000
  • Male kangaroos can also be extremely aggressive and territorial and can cause serious injury to people

The pristine white sand of Lucky Bay at Cape Le Grand National Park, 770 kilometres south-east of Perth, is known internationally for its kangaroos which enjoy lazing on the beach. n

The national park attracted 180,000 visitors last financial year and it is on track to surpass 200,000 this year.

Despite growing numbers of tourists, kangaroos are seemingly unafraid of humans and taking a photograph with the Australian coat of arms at Lucky Bay has become the region’s equivalent to a quokka selfie on Rottnest Island. 

But many tourists are using food as a lure to capture the western greys for the perfect holiday snap.

Ian Hughes, from the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, said the practice is concerning.

“They’ve (kangaroos) certainly taken up occupation on that beach and if it’s not the major tourism attraction for this part of the world, it’s right up there,” Mr Hughes said.

“We’re really happy for people to take photos of the kangaroos but not through inducement of food when you’re trying to get that good shot.

“The kangaroos down there have become remarkably used to people, so you can get quite close to them for selfies without feeding them.

“There’s no need to feed them. The kangaroos are up close and personal without that inducement.”

Fines rarely issued for feeding wildlife

The department has signs posted throughout the park advising visitors not to feed kangaroos.

They warn kangaroos can become very ill from eating human food and rangers can impose fines of up to $1,000.

But Mr Hughes said typically prosecutions are only pursued against serial offenders and the department prefers to educate the public.

“The kangaroos will eat whatever you give them, but they have a lot of trouble digesting it, particularly stuff that’s not native,” Mr Hughes said. 

“Chocolate, bread and any processed foods, the kangaroos love to eat it, but they are very bad for their health.

“They can become quite obese, develop liver problems and become seriously ill. 

“The other problem is kangaroos do get quite used to people feeding them, and they can potentially become quite aggressive if they’re not fed.”

Feeding roos is ‘killing them with kindness’

Lynn Kidd is a State-registered wildlife rehabilitation carer who has turned her home into a kangaroo sanctuary. 

At Esperance Roo Haven this week, she was caring for 25 adult kangaroos and bottle-feeding 11 joeys on her 13-hectare property. 

Mrs Kidd, who previously cared for zebras and antelope in South Africa, said tourists do not know the damage they are causing by feeding kangaroos the wrong food. 

“They are killing them with kindness,” Mrs Kidd said. “I think people probably want selfies and that’s the way to get your selfie by offering them whatever you’ve got there.

“It’s a really big problem … they shouldn’t be doing it.”

Source: ABC

Sourced by Mike Barrow

Disruption in the caravan parks industry could pose a real threat

Clayton McCudden has been in the caravan park industry for just three years, but he’s already considering leaving the sector.

Key points:

  • The number of caravan parks across Tasmania has fallen by almost 25 per cent in less than a decade, from 100 down to 77
  • The proliferation of free camping sites across Tasmania is feeding the decline of caravan parks.
  • The Campervan and Motorhome Club says caravan parks need to lower their prices as self-contained campervans become more popular.

Mr McCudden, who is based in Zeehan, in Tasmania’s west, says he can’t compete with low-cost or free camping springing up around the state.

“[There are] a lot of free camps, both official and unofficial … and we’ve really noticed the impact of those,” he said.

“While we are required to pay rates, insurance costs, water bills, rubbish disposal costs … all of those services are passed onto free campers totally free of charge … at the expense of the ratepayer.

“From a consumers perspective, they actually don’t see a lot of difference [between a caravan park and a free camp site] and that’s in part the problem, when the community is picking up the costs of those services.

“With the caravan park, we’ve got a lot of overheads.”

‘As few as 10 genuine caravan parks within a decade’

Industry figures show the number of caravan parks across Tasmania has fallen by almost 25 per cent in less than a decade, from 100 down to 77.

Comparatively, there are more than 300 low-cost or free camping sites around the state.

Caravanning Tasmania president Rowen Carter said owner-operators were struggling to survive.

“The caravan park sector is in fast decline, and there will probably be as few as 10 genuine caravan parks left in Tasmania in the next 8 to 10 years if something doesn’t change,” Mr Carter said.

“Free camping is part of the Australia psyche … but what we’re talking about is councils subsidising people to have a holiday in the centre of town — they’re having an adverse effect on the caravan park visitor nights.

“It’s not fair that caravan parks are paying commercial rates for their sites while we’re losing customers and subsidising them to stay in council sites.”

Earlier this year, the Tasmanian Government released a new policy statement on free or low-cost camping, requiring councils or public entities involved in providing campsites to compete on fair and equal terms with private businesses. 

It also determined councils must limit their public, non-powered campsites to no more than 10 per cent of all camping offerings within a 60-kilometre radius of a commercial caravan park.

But if it can be proved it’s in the public interest to offer free or low-cost camping within those bounds, councils can be exempted from the rules.

Mr Carter said the public interest test was “far too wide-ranging” and “flawed”. He said some councils were not adhering to the rules and the Government wasn’t doing enough to regulate them. 

“They’re [the State Government] not holding councils accountable … councils are running rampant, councils are the police, the judge and juror in this case,” he said. 

“The Government, as the body that should oversee this, are not enforcing the rules.” 

Free camping lets caravanners stay in town longer

Queensland caravanners Chris and Jaye Phillips have been travelling the state for four months in their self-contained caravan. 

The pair said they’re happy to pay for caravan parks occasionally in order to dump waste and wash their clothes but preferred to use free camping options where possible. 

“I think there should be more, and I think people would use them a lot more too,” Mr Phillips said.

“You’re not actually saving any money because you’re spending it on other areas. 

“We go on more day trips so therefore we’re spending money on petrol, and we’d stop into little boutique places and buy their specialty jams and fudge. 

“We’ve spent a fair bit on going out for dinner, going on trips … by coming to camps like this occasionally … you can save a little, which allows you to do those things a bit more often.” 

It’s a trend that has the caravan park industry nervous. It argues the rise of free and cheap camping has cut the value of their businesses, limiting their ability to reinvest, and even stay viable. 

Mr McCudden said he had already come up with a plan B.

“Because the market’s not so good to remain in caravanning services we decided to go in a new direction,” he said.

“Glamping is a new market that seems to be going well so we’re planning on converting 22 odd sites into 12 large glamping sites as well as BYO tents.” 

‘Today’s vehicles don’t need a caravan park’

On the other side of the equation, free camping advocates say the caravanning sector had to move with the times, as self-contained recreational vehicles become more popular. 

“[Free camping is] not destroying the [caravan] business at all, because the simple numbers will tell you that a lot of the vehicles they are manufacturing today don’t need to go into a commercial park,” Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia CEO Richard Barwick said.

“A low-cost … is what we expect. If you’re only paying for minimal facilities, you shouldn’t be paying $30-40 dollars per night in overnight fees when you don’t need them. 

“Everyone needs to adapt and change, and I think that’s what hasn’t happened in Tasmania.”

ED: smacks of similarities to other disruption in the accommodation sector.  Try free camping in Noosa and see how far that gets you!

Source: ABC

Sourced by Mike Barrow

International Visitors Survey stats show backpacker sector struggling

Not pretty! Is the best way to describe the latest IVS stats from Tourism Australia. The backpacker sector was down 3.8% for visitors in the December 2018 quarter based on the same figures from 2017.

Overall backpacker numbers for NSW were down 4.2%, Vic down 1.5%, Queensland down 3.9%, SA down 9.7%, WA down 7.5%, Tas down 1.6%, NT down 7.1% and ACT down 8.7%.

Visitor nights were also down overall by 8.3% with the worst affected, NSW, down 11.4% and WA down 15.9%.

Average visitor nights overall dropped from 71 to 67 but expenditure per person remained roughly the same at $5180. However, average expenditure per night rose from $73 to $77 overall. (see table 3C)

In overall ranking by destination, Sydney remains at #1 followed by Melbourne, Brisbane, TNQ, Perth, North coast NSW (Byron), Gold Coast, Adelaide , Whitsundays, Sunshine Coast. (see table 9B)

International visitor nights by type of accommodation used shows the backpacker accommodation down 9% overall. What the results did reveal, was the increase on “other commercial accommodation” by a whopping 27.8% at the expense of all other types of accommodation except “rented apartment” and “other private accommodation”. You can be the judge of that one. (see table 8)

Source: International Visitor Survey

Written by Mike Barrow


Adventium Technology emailed their clients on 26 March 2019 to advise that effective 15 April 2019, they will be implementing API Success Fees.

The proposed fees will be on all successful API bookings and the fees for API connections are:
Accommodation Providers: 1.0% of retail recommended price
Tour & Activity Providers: 0.50% of retail recommended price
Operators accessing via Junction6: 0.25% of retail recommended price

Several members have contacted us to raise their concern about these fees and both BOA, AQ and ATV intend to respond to Adventium Technology on behalf of members.

As a BOA, AQ or ATV member, if you are affected by implementation of these fees and would like to share your feedback, please send an email to one of the following: or get in touch with a BOA representative. by 10am Thursday 4 April, 2019 or get in touch with your local AQ representative to discuss.

…or please comment on this forum on how it will affect your business even if not a member of the above state organisations.

Source: BOA/AQ

Sourced by Mike Barrow