Fig­ures show bet­ter news for tourism

Augusta Margaret River Times - - News - War­ren Hately

Tourism au­thor­i­ties in the re­gion are breath­ing a sigh of relief af­ter the lat­est end-of­fi­nan­cial-year fig­ures showed growth in the Mar­garet River tourism sec­tor de­spite WA con­tin­u­ing to fall be­hind al­most ev­ery other State.

Tourism Re­search Aus­tralia’s vis­i­tor sta­tis­tics break­down for the past fi­nan­cial year showed a big jump — 29.9 per cent — from in­ter­state vis­i­tors overnight­ing in the Mar­garet River re­gion, while WA-based tourists also grew 3.5 per cent.

Last year’s visi­ta­tion reeled back losses across the past three years, dur­ing which in­ter­state overnighters grew 14 per cent, while WA-based trav­ellers dipped 0.9 per cent across three years.

Mar­garet River-Bus­sel­ton Tourism As­so­ci­a­tion co-chief ex­ec­u­tive Sharna Kear­ney lauded the re­cov­ery.

“(But) in­trastate visi­ta­tion over the last three years is slightly down, re­sult­ing in static do­mes­tic vis­i­tor num­bers over­all,” she said.

Shadow tourism min­is­ter and Vasse MLA Libby Met­tam said strong lo­cal num­bers re­in­forced the need to build Bus­sel­ton Air­port’s pas­sen­ger ter­mi­nal.

“The open­ing of the Bus­sel­tonMar­garet River Air­port will be a key trans­for­ma­tional project for the South West and the tourism in­dus­try,” she said.

“In­ter­state travel is the strongest growth, which again un­der­lines the rea­son we had seen the pre­vi­ous Govern­ment’s in­vest­ment in the Bus­sel­ton-Mar­garet River Air­port.

“It’s valu­able to note this in­ter­state up-kick is not a re­sult of the Govern­ment’s cam­paign, which hasn’t had a chance to take ef­fect.”

Ear­lier this year, the tourism sec­tor com­plained about La­bor’s re­jig of WA’s tourism strat­egy, quit­ting the Tourism 2020 project to de­liver in­stead a twoyear ac­tion plan that didn’t in­clude ac­ti­va­tion of Bus­sel­ton Air­port, and sought to fun­nel vis­i­tors through Perth as the “gate­way” to re­gional WA.

The lat­est fig­ures for the State — which do not re­flect the new strat­egy — showed a 2 per cent drop against na­tional growth of 8 per cent.

“Th­ese fig­ures in­di­cate that af­ter much bravado when com­ing into of­fice over 18 months ago, tourism is still rud­der­less, and the is­sues re­gard­ing lack of lead­er­ship in this port­fo­lio haven’t gone away,” Ms Met­tam said.

Spend­ing for WA in­trastate vis­i­tors was down for the third year in a row at -4.6 per cent this past fi­nan­cial year, while overnight vis­i­tors for busi­ness and fam­ily trips had big jumps.

But in­trastate vis­its to the South West over­all were slightly down at -0.9 per cent.

While more in­ter­state trav­ellers were com­ing to WA (up 11.3 per cent), overnight stays de­creased by 14.1 per cent.

In­ter­state vis­its to the South West rose 12.7 per cent but daytrip­pers dropped one per cent.

Tourism body Aus­tralia’s South West noted a down­ward trend in vis­i­tor spend­ing.

■ What do you think? Email let­ters to ed­i­tor@am­r­times.com.au.

Vasse MLA Libby Met­tam. Pic­ture: Matt Jelonek

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