Struggle to stay fresh

BY THE time the Monaghan clan reached Coffs Harbour, they had already done Byron Bay, Moreton Island, Yamba and Sea World.

So when the young family from Adelaide stopped their caravan at the Big Banana on the Pacific Highway, it was strictly for photographs.

"Doesn't everyone do that?" Tegan Monaghan said. "We're just going to go to the shops and have a look at Coffs, then probably stay in a national park."

But the South Australians are among a dwindling number of tourists to the 48-year-old giant, yellow icon for "big things".

"I'd say [there's been a] slow decline," the Big Banana operations manager, Erin Williams, said. "It has been going down each year but it depends on the time of year, too."

The Big Banana business worked with local resorts, organisations, and international tourism operators – particularly in Asia – to advertise, she said. But to draw enough domestic and foreign tourists, the Big Banana has also had to reinvent itself as a theme park with toboggan ride, water slide, multimedia banana education centre, ice rink, cafe and souvenir shop.

And, for almost a decade, the tourist park has been in a joint venture partnership with a development company.

"We have to come up with new ideas all the time," Ms Williams said.

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