Ballina holidaymakers had ‘nowhere to go’ over Christmas

IMAGINE travelling halfway across the world to spend the Christmas break on the sunny New South Wales North Coast, only to find all the shops and restaurants were closed.

Ballina Homestead Motel owner Brendan Hughes said his guests found themselves in that exact situation with barely anywhere open to feed them.

The motelier called on restaurants and Ballina Shire Council to do better next year to cater for the influx of visitors.

"There are thousands of people coming to the coast for the first time - to find that there are limited food outlets open," he said.

"Guests at our motel found that there were only two pizza outlets open, with travellers lined up outside waiting for food which sold out very quickly.

"We heard of a story of people driving south from Ballina to Coffs Harbour and in all that distance, all they found was one small bakery."

The North Coast was Australia's most visited regional area and pulled in $2.5 billion in tourism in the 12 months to September.

Mr Hughes said the lack of hospitality businesses open over the holidays was a bad look for somewhere with so many holidaymakers.

"We had complaints, for sure. Americans were particularly upset," he said.

"They're used to things being open virtually 24 hours a day over the holidays at home, so to come here and find nothing open was a bit of a shock."

Mr Hughes called on council to run an audit of open businesses next year so hospitality workers would know where to direct visitors.

He also suggested a roster system allowing restaurants to avoid having to operate for all of Christmas Day.

"If motels have to remain open to welcome guests every day of the year, people over the holiday period should have food outlets available, even if there is a business rotation on these public holidays," he said.

"One place could open from nine until three, then another could run from three to nine." -APN NEWSDESK

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