In­vest­ment drives change in city

Geraldton Guardian - - Front Page - Stephen Scour­field Stephen Scour­field is travel editor at The West Aus­tralian.

Ger­ald­ton is on the verge of rein­vent­ing it­self, says Scott Cogar, who chairs the Progress Midwest Tourism Group.

“This is a tip­ping point for Ger­ald­ton,” he says.

Around the ta­ble are mem­bers of the group, all com­pet­i­tive, in­vested, en­thu­si­as­tic and work­ing to­gether to de­velop tourism in the city.

The surge is be­ing driven by pri­vate en­ter­prise, says Grant Pit­man, gen­eral manager of The Ger­ald Apart­ment Ho­tel, which aims to be open in late Novem­ber.

“We have in­vested mil­lions of dol­lars,” he says. “We all have skin in the game.” Mr Pit­man says there is de­mand for qual­ity ac­com­mo­da­tion in Ger­ald­ton.

That com­pares with Perth, where the lat­est data show that in the first three months of this year, av­er­age oc­cu­pancy has fallen to 77 per cent and room rates by al­most 7 per cent to av­er­age $179 a night, and yet there are 3000 more rooms in the de­vel­op­ment pipe­line.

Progress Midwest Tourism Group mem­bers are com­bin­ing in a web­site book­ing plat­form that means vis­i­tors can book trans­fers, ac­com­mo­da­tion, tours and ac­tiv­i­ties all at the same time.

Mr Cogar is man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Broadwater Ho­tels and Re­sorts Aus­tralia and runs Broadwater Mariner Re­sort, Ger­ald­ton. He has pre­vi­ously man­aged more than 30 ho­tels and re­sorts.

I re­cently stayed in one of the Broadwater’s big rooms set around its big swim­ming pool and Mr Cogar pointed out it was the only 4.5 star-rated ac­com­mo­da­tion in the city.

Mr Cogar is cer­tainly show­ing his com­mit­ment to Ger­ald­ton by char­ter­ing a 174-seat Qan­tas 737 to sell a three-day pack­age to Ger­ald­ton to show­case the ac­com­mo­da­tion, ac­tiv­i­ties, pro­duce and cui­sine it has to of­fer. The trip will be late in Oc­to­ber. It will be the big­gest com­mer­cial flight flown into Ger­ald­ton, and Mr Cogar says taller stairs have been bought for Ger­ald­ton Air­port, and a belt loader will be brought up.

Wendy Mann, chief pi­lot and manager of Ger­ald­ton Air Char­ter, has seen a dra­matic rise in sight­see­ing book­ings be­tween July and Septem­ber.

GAC, which has 12 air­craft, of­fers a day fly­ing from Ger­ald­ton to the Hout­man Abrol­hos Is­lands, fly­ing over the Pel­saert and Easter groups of is­lands and land­ing on the Wal­labi Group. There is the his­tory of the Batavia, the story of the cray­fish­ing in­dus­try and beau­ti­ful co­ral with an easy swim in a shel­tered bay, she says.

Flights north­wards over Pink Lake at the Hutt La­goon are in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar with Chi­nese vis­i­tors, Ms Mann says. One day re­cently, there was a group of six Chi­nese fam­i­lies in six Britz vans. “They love the Pink Lake,” she says.

Glen Whistler-Carr, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of the Mid West Cham­ber of Com­merce and In­dus­try, says: “We are very for­tu­nate to have the beau­ti­ful In­dian Ocean Drive to get here.

“From Perth, you drive along the coast, then see the white dunes.”

It makes Ger­ald­ton a nat­u­ral end point for the drive.

The Ger­ald Apart­ment Ho­tel, as it will look when fin­ished.

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