Byron accommodation booked out

EASTER accommodation in Byron Bay was booked out within days of Bob Dylan being announced as the headline act of Bluesfest 2011.

Byron Visitor Centre's accommodation officer, Claudine Clarke, said their phones rang off the hook for days.

“A lot of people are coming to Byron Bay just because of Bob Dylan,” she said.

“We're now booked out for Easter next year and right through the Christmas school holiday period, too.

“Most of the houses available to rent in the area were also snapped up within a week of the Bluesfest news.

“We still have a few houses available for minimum stays of seven nights but most people don't want to stay that long.”

Byron Bay's not-for-profit visitor centre is the front line in the battle for beds in the tourist mecca, handling up to 300 of the estimated 600 visitors a day that pour into town.

It not only handles accommodation but also books day trips and other attractions, including extreme sports.

As one of the few self-funded visitor centres in Australia, the hectic heritage cottage in the town centre has 10 staff and a few volunteers and is always looking for more help.

With an estimated 200,000 annual visitors to a township of just 10,000, Ms Clarke says overseas visitors were always keen to talk to people with good local knowledge.

“I think this is the first time we've had more paid staff than volunteers, so we're putting out the call,” she said.

“We provide training and it's a great experience for anyone looking to get into the tourist industry.

“Volunteers also get a chance to sample some of the tours and day trips for free.”

The centre will celebrate its 13th year in the old Station Master's Cottage next week, which coincides with National Volunteers Week.

Centre manager Katharine Myres said a lot had changed since the centre opened in 1997.

“We've moved from a purely information centre to a fully fledged booking agent employing 10 people,” she said.

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