Sharp rise in park visitors
West Australians are falling back in love with the great outdoors, with numbers visiting the State’s national parks and nature reserves soaring in recent years.
Official figures show the number of visits to parks and reserves rocketed 64 per cent between 200607 and last financial year.
The Department of Parks and Wildlife figures show there were 19.75 million visits in 2015-16 compared with 12 million a decade ago.
They continue an unbroken run of increases during the period, including a 5 per cent bump in the most recent financial year alone.
Parks with the biggest increase in traffic are those that have had major capital works upgrades, such as Torndirrup National Park in Albany.
Visitor numbers to the south coast park jumped 70 per cent — or an extra 20,000 — in just two weeks after the department unveiled a new lookout overhanging the Gap as part of a $6.1 million redevelopment at the popular spot.
Other parks to have had a boost in visits include the Porongurup, Fitzgerald River and Kalbarri national parks after millions of dollars — often from the Royalties for Regions program — was poured into new infrastructure.
West Australians are leading the charge in the growing popularity of the parks and reserves. According to the department, the proportion of West Australians visiting the parks and reserves have risen over the past year from 75 per cent to 77 per cent.
Interstate tourists made up 13 per cent of visitors and those from overseas accounted for 10 per cent of traffic.
The department said the “significant shift” showed a larger amount of West Australians were holidaying at home — a finding in line with recent Tourism Council figures, amid the falling Australian dollar and sluggish domestic economy.
DPAW director-general Jim Sharp said the rising popularity of natural areas was a boon for WA’s regions and reinforced the decision to move the agency’s headquarters to Bunbury.
“Enhancing the cultural richness of visitor experiences in national parks and reserves continued to remain a priority for the department,” Mr Sharp said in the report.
“Through providing greater access and new and improved facilities, we have seen the number of visits to (Department of ) Parks and Wildlife-managed lands increased by 1.08 million.”
The department said visitor satisfaction during 2015-16 was also the highest on record at 91.4 per cent, up from 87.9 per cent the previous year.