Grey nomads get Hedland tills ringing
■ There appears to be a silver lining to Hedland’s economic downturn after the visitor centre estimated grey nomads spent up to $50,000 a week this season.
Port Hedland Visitor Centre manager Natasha Fry said the rough estimate was based on voluntary receipts dropped off by grey nomads over a two-week period.
She said the two weeks of receipts showed travellers spent a total of $105,000 in the local economy.
“Importantly, $34,000 of this investment was to small local businesses such as the Seafarers Centre, local hairdressers, newsagents and tours through the visitor centre,” Ms Fry said. “(This) turned, what was looking to be the worst tourism season in three years, into a season that has eclipsed the last two seasons in visitor numbers, tours and importantly, positive feedback.”
Ms Fry said the tourism surge was directly linked to Town of Port Hedland’s decision to open a free overflow campground at the turf club for travellers in caravans and recreation vehicles.
Town of Port Hedland Mayor Kelly Howlett said 47 per cent of grey nomads surveyed at the visitor centre would have passed Hedland by if the campground had not been available.
“Offering a pet-friendly, central ground … with greywater dump point, close to local shops, restaurants and businesses encouraged more people … to consider Port Hedland as a destination … this winter,” Ms Howlett said.
Hedland tourism figures last week also backed the overflow campground.
Port Hedland Seafarers Centre tour guide Ray Ives said his nonprofit group ran two-to-three tours a day when the campground was open.
Once it closed, the group’s tour numbers almost dropped by half.
Ibis Styles Port Hedland manager Jason Green said his hotel’s restaurant had not only gained business, but also enjoyed the spark and atmosphere the tourists brought.
Representatives of Aspen’s Cooke Point Holiday Park and The Landing resort village also reported good tourist seasons, acknowledging the overflow ground helped to boost overall tourist numbers.
South Hedland’s Blackrock Tourist Park was the only accommodation business to report a bad season and expressed concern the overflow park was competing for business.
However, Ms Howlett said the Town would look to work with Blackrock to find ways to help it profit from the surge in tourists.
Ms Fry said she was keen for the overflow campground to continue next year because it had put Hedland back on the map.