New figures have identified the Margaret River region as the strongest-growing regional tourism zone in Australia since the outbreak of the pandemic. Mostly driven by intrastate tourism, the new data including the surrounding localities of Dunsborough, Busselton and Augusta was unveiled at last week’s Tourism and Transport Forum and lauded by Tourism Minister Rita Saffioti. “Our State has some truly incredible destinations for visitors to explore, and it’s fantastic to see that our South West region has been recognised for being the fastest-growing destination in the country,” she said. “These are pretty impressive results, particularly when you look at the other tourism hotspots across the country that we’re competing with, like the Gold Coast in Queensland and coastal New South Wales.” The tourism minister said the strongest growth came from Australians aged between 30 and 64, with visitation levels 16 per cent above pre-COVID-19 levels. Margaret River-Busselton Tourism Association chief executive Sharna Kearney noted the official figures told a story of mixed fortunes because visitor nights — a crucial indicator for spending in the regions — remained above pre-COVID-19 levels but had declined during the past two years. “Our region is consistently recognised in studies such as these for its reliance on tourism and its tourism potential,” she said. “This illustrates why it is critical that we remain thoughtful about how tourism develops in our region, to ensure that we protect and grow economic, social, environmental, cultural and Aboriginal outcomes for our community.” While the region experienced a Perth-driven tourism boom during the pandemic, international trade had not yet returned to previous levels and MRBTA was focused on protecting the region’s natural assets in the face of increasing pressure. Ms Saffioti said it was great to see West Australians embracing their own tourism destinations. Margaret River ranked sixth in the top 10 regional Australian destinations based on overall volume of tourism. While visitor nights were a key factor, Margaret River boasted equal third place behind Coastal NSW and the Gold Coast. In the visitation stakes, Margaret River and surrounds enjoyed an 18.8 per cent boost among “middle aged” visitors. The South West ranked as the most popular destination within WA for people already living in the State and came seventh nationwide for seniors.