Margaret River welcomes more visitors

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
MRBTA chairman Trent Bartlett.
Camera IconMRBTA chairman Trent Bartlett.

The region’s tourism authority says despite challenges in visitation and criticism of State Government marketing funding, interstate promotion is paying off for the local economy.

The Margaret River-Busselton Tourism Association has lauded a 20 per cent jump in interstate visitors in the wake of a $1 million marketing campaign launched on the east coast last year.

Despite acknowledging daytripper and international visitor numbers were still lagging — and visitors to the region were generally spending less (see page 3) — MRBTA co-chief executive Sharna Kearney said the return to solid visitor growth from within Australia reflected positively on Tourism WA’s focused efforts on the east coast market. “In marketing, it’s not always about the money you have to spend, but how you spend it,” Ms Kearney said.

“Some of the most clever marketing solutions come from the smallest of budgets.”

MRBTA chairman Trent Bartlett said the region was well-placed to help the WA Government with increasing the tourism economy.

“We have been very pleased with the investment the State Government has made in improving the experience that visitors have of our region,” he said.

State projects and infrastructure funding helped the local tourism offering, Mr Bartlett said.

“Continued investment in big-ticket projects like these will continue to be critical for the development of our region as a highly desirable tourism destination,” he said.

Last week, critics called for a $130 million investment in tourism marketing across the next five years, saying WA’s economy was under threat from a lack of State Government action linked to a major downturn in overseas visitors.

Tourism Council of WA boss Evan Hall said it was “impossible to over-exaggerate the disastrous state of the industry”, which follows a restructure of State Government departments and TWA languishing without a director for many months.

Mr Hall said other States were out-performing WA because of to greater marketing spending.

The Times understands collaboration between the tourism, wine, environment, and local government sectors would further unify marketing of the Margaret River region through eco-tourism and adventure travel.

“Tourism WA are also undertaking work at the moment to develop a stronger regional narrative for the State,” Ms Kearney said.

“MRBTA has been undertaking similar work over the past six months, and are enthusiastic about being involved in the process.

“There is still more to be done ... but strong gains have been made over the past two years.”

MRBTA will also start surveying members monthly to help gather fine details not captured by broad visitation statistics.

FIGURES ON THE RISE

The latest tourism figures show a big jump in interstate travellers to the Margaret River region.

With figures based on 12 months to September, interstate overnighters increased 22.3 per cent on 2017 figures, with 8.1 per cent growth on a three-year trend.

Growth in overnighters from within WA was lower, at an improvement of 6.7 per cent, which corrected the downturn in 2017.

In all, the region welcomed 159,000 interstaters and more than 1.35 million WA overnight tourists in the past year.

“Visitation from all markets, except intrastate daytrippers to the Margaret River region, is markedly up for the year ending September 2018,” the association said.

“International visitation is still lagging behind 2016 numbers, but showing signs of improvement.”

International visits improved 7.7 per cent on 2017, but it wasn’t enough to create a positive result for the three-year average,

Meanwhile, daytrippers from Perth – many of whom holiday in Bali or other Australian destinations – fell a further 9.3 per cent, with 1.05 million visitors in total.

MRBTA said spending data wasn’t collected for the region, but anecdotal feedback from members confirmed visitors were travelling with belts tightened.

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