Virus and fires spark tourism cash

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
The coronavirus epidemic and east coast bushfires have forced the WA Government’s hand to step in and give the region’s tourism industry a shot in the arm.
Camera IconThe coronavirus epidemic and east coast bushfires have forced the WA Government’s hand to step in and give the region’s tourism industry a shot in the arm. Credit: AP

The region’s peak tourism body has welcomed State funding to boost visitor numbers in the wake of the Eastern States bushfires and the coronavirus panic.

Last week, Tourism Minister Paul Papalia added $12.85 million to the tourism war chest, which also aimed to cut back the price of interstate flights.

Mr Papalia and Premier Mark McGowan said the money would support tourism jobs and included a recent $2.85 million to lure travellers to holiday from interstate. Road trips, including visits to Margaret River, were part of the campaign design.

“Perth is the gateway to our regions and this funding will make the regions more accessible to thousands of visitors,” Mr Papalia said.

“The beauty of WA’s regions and the range of activities on offer makes it the No.1 destination for locals, interstate and international tourists to visit.”

Margaret River-Busselton Tourism Association co-chief executive Steve Harrison said the intervention was reassuring.

“Along with Tourism Australia’s Holiday Here This Year campaign, imploring Australians to travel locally, MRBTA welcomes these initiatives at a time when potential visitors may be questioning their holiday and travel plans,” he said.

“Even though the catastrophic fires and floods are far from this region, they have created a more widespread degree of uncertainty, which has been exacerbated by the coronavirus news.

“No region of Australia will escape those negative impacts.”

There were also increasing reports chaos in China affecting Hong Kong and Singapore had put a dent in wine exports and the region’s wedding industry, which relied heavily on Asian markets.

Tourism Council WA boss Evan Hall said the $5 million of extra marketing money would offset cancelled and reduced bookings.

“WA has moved quicker than other States to respond to the coronavirus travel ban and secure new marketing deals to support the industry,” he said.

“The additional funding will assist to attract replacement visitors for those businesses facing cancellations, or lack of forward bookings, due to the impact of bushfire perception and coronavirus.

“To date, 78 per cent of (TCWA member) respondents have experienced some impact on their business from the coronavirus travel restrictions, with 43 per cent experiencing cancellations from Chinese visitors,” Mr Hall said.

Mr Harrison said next month’s official launch of direct Jetstar flights from Busselton to Melbourne would be an added shot in the arm for the sector.

“We ... would certainly welcome further support to promote the new connection,” he said.

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