It’s a historical fact the the strength of the WA economy has always been based around the mining industry. Lets face it, when the mining industry is booming, jobs are created, which means an increase in workers who head to WA. These workers need somewhere to call home, and of course spend their hard earned on living expenses. This means an increase to local Perth business which translates into a thriving economy.
In current times, whilst the future of the mining industry continues to look bleak, Western Australia will need to look at other economic sectors to stimulate growth, with one significant area being tourism. It is in this area that local businesses such as Trigg Retreat bed and breakfast can significantly contribute in the future growth of WA.
The team at WA today have detailed a report that indicates how the future of WA’s economy can in fact be lead by tourism.
Both sides of mainstream politics have identified WA’s tourism sector as a key driver for the future of WA’s economy.
It’s an obvious choice – tourism directly employs around 97,000 people in the state (comparable with mining), and brings in millions of visitors whose spending money trickles down to almost every level of the economy.
And while the CEO of WA’s Tourism Council Evan Hall reckons tourism’s impact could multiply many times over if the right moves get made in the next couple of years, he’s quite sober about where the sector is placed right now.
“The mining years left WA out of sync with the rest of the nation. When mining was big in WA the majority of our visits in that period came from over east and were very much business focussed and we added hotel capacity to take that and focussed on business travel.”
“Now that mining’s dried up those business visitors aren’t coming. At the same time the focus on business travel in the past years has seen us drop our competitive edge in leisure travel.
New statistics from Tourism WA – the government body for the sector – show for the Year Ending September 2016 there was a 0.4% increase in visitors from the eastern states, though business visitors have dropped compared to 2015.
Those who are coming are also spending more – an average of $113 a night for a $1.419m spend, up 13.8 per cent with a 9.6 per cent increase in visitor nights.
If you build it they will come… hopefully
Elizabeth Quay. The new Perth Stadium. Revitalised terminals at Perth Airport. Win or lose, the great legacy of the Barnett Liberal government will be the multi-billion dollar investments it made in new infrastructure.
But for the Evan Hall, these impressive dividends of the mining boom are white elephants if they don’t put bums on seats.
“Tourists are not going to come to WA and Perth for a hotel room in the city and an ice cream down at Elizabeth Quay. They will come for events and for our beautiful natural environment.
“We’ve got better air links with the new airport and the stadium and the quay are big drawcards – particularly the stadium. It’s a game changer. But we have to use them properly.”
Events are the watchword for the tourism sector right now – hence the widespread applause when it was announced Chelsea F.C. will play an exhibition match at Perth’s new stadium with all its extra seats and the nerves over whether the Eagles and Dockers will even play there.
The tourism sector sees the stadium as a gateway for WA, bringing in overseas and interstate visitors who will watch a match or attend a concert there, then spend a few days or a few weeks splashing their money around the state.
Figures from Tourism WA show that there’s been a 13.3 per cent increase in visitors to WA from China, a 31 per cent rise in Malaysian visitors and 17.7 per cent increase from the USA.
So it’s clear that, stadium or not, people are coming to WA.
But while the coming stadium could be a great boost to those visitor numbers, Mr Hall reckons there’s a well-established but long-neglected piece of infrastructure that could help turbocharge the tourism sector.
“The Perth Convention Centre is just sitting there. It hosts some events but to be blunt it’s nowhere near big or good enough. It needs expansion in terms of floor space and modernisations.
“While our centre hasn’t had an upgrade in years, every other Australian capital city has invested huge amounts into their convention centres. Adelaide has doubled its capacity, Sydney is opening up a new facility at Darling Harbour, Brisbane, Darwin, Melbourne, all huge markets for conventions.
“If we upgraded the Perth Convention Centre and truly integrated it with Elizabeth Quay – God knows why it’s not – then we could hold all kinds of events at a higher level right the year around and get more high yield people into Perth and then into the rest of WA. We are at least three years behind every other Australian city.”
But even if WA were to host more international events and attract more visitors from over east and other countries, Mr Hall reckons the sector will still struggle to grow unless it’s given a freer hand.
Cattle class to first – upgrading WA’s travel experience
Earlier this year a major new tourism initiative for WA was announced – sea plane flights from Perth’s Swan River all the way down south to Margaret River.
International visitors can now fly into Perth, board the sea plane and be whisked away to one of Western Australia’s most idyllic tourist destinations.
But Evan Hall said getting this idea off the drawing board and into the air was a byzantine process of paperwork and box ticking that will make your head spin.
“Right up until the day before we launched this thing we had to get Australian Navy divers out to check the piles on the pier it would be loading passengers from.
“To get any tourism project approved right now we have to go through nine different government agencies – and if just one of them says no, for any reason, you’re sunk.
“Then you’ve got to get signs off from stakeholders, councils, the list just goes on and on. No one can just simply say yes and get things done.”
The Tourism Council represents over 1,300 stakeholders from the smallest bed and breakfast in a country town to major travel businesses. The uniform complaint they have is to get anything done there’s a labyrinth of skull numbing regulations to navigate that that kills more ideas than it nurtures.
“Perth does plenty of business every day, business travel, meetings, but we don’t have one proper helicopter pad. The Swan River sits over a huge natural aquifer with hot springs. Where are the beauty treatments and spas? The surf park? The sea plane?
“Balance has to be preserved and there are good regulations that protect what we have. But things have gone too far. Make no mistake, we are competing for visitors. We need to get an edge. ”
Where the bloody hell are ya?
WA is home to some of the world most beautiful beaches, finest wines, the most spectacular natural attractions and warm, friendly people who want visitors to come.
Promoting it to tourists should be a no-brainer. And the way ahead is pretty clear according to the Tourism Council – cut the red tape to foster innovation, put more events on to raise visitor numbers and shout about it all from the rooftops.
“We have great things in Perth and WA all ready to go, but we are not promoting them at anywhere approaching a level that will give us better results and allow us to grow,” Mr Hall warns.
“We need to identify our markets again – in China, Indonesia, over east – put together packages and flog them hard. Get events in, get people to see them and then book them into more activities and stays.
“To do that we need steady budget so we can market right and compete properly. Funding has been incredibly inconsistent for the sector. Right now we don’t know year to year what our budget will be. It puts us at a huge disadvantage.”
Tourism is a growing, vibrant sector that is important to WA’s economy, with growth occurring is sub sectors like the perth bed and breakfast market.
Fair cop, it will never have the enormous economic impact mining has had in WA. But Mr Hall predicts it could be bigger and better if the very least we do is promote it more.
“Our message has to be that WA is open for business and we want you here. We have great nature, amazing food and wine, beautiful places to come and enjoy. Lately we’ve just forgotten to tell it.”