International visitors spend big in the Gascoyne
The latest Tourism Research Australia data for the Gascoyne bucks WA State tourism figures.
The Gascoyne welcomed 353,800 domestic (86%) and international (14%) visitors, spending a whopping $359 million across the region during the year ending June 2018.
Spend by international visitors in the Gascoyne was up 24% from the previous year. The Gascoyne’s international spend was higher than the national figure which increased by 5%, while state international visitor spend was down 10%. One reason for this difference can be attributed to the signature, high-value experiences provided by the region’s industry. This was despite an overall decline in the number of international visitors to the Gascoyne.
Visitation and spend by domestic visitors to the Gascoyne region also reported stronger growth than WA state statistics. Domestic visitation increased by 12% compared to the State (8%) while spend increased by 7% compared to WA (-2%).
“Tourism is a dynamic and resilient industry here in the Gascoyne,” says Gascoyne Development Commission Chairman, Andy Munro, “at last count the industry has created 550 direct jobs and supports 200, typically small to medium-sized enterprises according to ABS data” he explains.
“According to Tourism Research Australia figures, we’ve seen an increase in overall visitation to the Gascoyne in the last five years and a conservative 10-year doubling of visitor spend,” Andy says.
“The Commission’s role is to lead and direct tourism policy, but the engine behind tourism development is the private sector, we cannot exist without each other. Public-Private Partnerships are vital for the region and the Commission is committed to develop and strengthen these.”
The superlative attributes of two World Heritage properties, Shark Bay and Ningaloo Coast, not only strengthen Australia’s global tourism competitiveness, but they also provide a platform for an industry that delivers signature, eco-sustainable and world-class experiences.
Kieran and Tori Wardle, run the increasingly popular tourism experience on Dirk Hartog Island. Kieran says, “There are so many exceptional products in our region that will attract visitors from all over the world. The most appealing aspect of the industry is that it’s being driven by young passionate entrepreneurs who are willing to share their story and help others achieve their goals.”
Having just completed its third year of trials, swimming with humpback whales along the Ningaloo Coast is delighting guests and following the popularity footsteps that swimming with whale sharks has seen. And with a wealth of experience behind them, local operators are dedicated to providing a world-class experience as Sarah Ellis, owner of Ningaloo Discovery explains, “2018 was certainly a huge year for Ningaloo discovery. We had over a 20% increase in guests onboard for tours with us this season” going on to say, “humpback whale swim tours have developed into a sustainable tourism industry.”
The Gascoyne was swaying in colour with the best wildflower season in a decade. Shark Bay boasts the longest running wildflower season in the state, and Instagram was awash with pink Shark Bay daisy, purple Mulla Mulla and Red Sturt Desert Pea.
David O’Malley chief executive for regional tourism organisation Australia’s Coral Coast said, “the Gascoyne wildflowers were fantastic this season and provided great photography and social media sharing opportunities. Along with partnerships with local professional photographers to capture amazing footage, we ran the biggest domestic wildflower campaign in ACC’s history.”
“We excite more than just sight and touch senses here in the Gascoyne too,” says Andy, “let’s not forget our taste buds.”
Emerging as a diverse delicatessen of exceptional food, the Gascoyne’s Food Bowl status is also riding a global culinary tourism trend. Growing every year, the annual Gascoyne Food Festival was staged at stunning locations from Exmouth and Carnarvon to Mt Augustus Station. Cathy Sohler, general manager at Mt Augustus Tourist Park tells us, “We hosted our third and biggest ‘Australia’s Biggest BBQ at Australia’s Biggest Rock’ event this year while re-investing thousands of dollars into the event as well.”
Carnarvon Visitor Centre Coordinator, Stephanie Leca said: “The community and Visitor Centre team have worked extremely hard to change the perception of Carnarvon and improve the visitor experience.” This effort was recognised when Carnarvon was awarded the GWN7 Top Tourism Town for a population under 5,000 people this September.
Recently picking up Bronze in the Tour and Transport category at the 2018 WA Tourism Awards Justin Borg, chief executive and pilot for Coral Coast Helicopter Services confirms, “yes, we have seen some noticeable growth during our third season in the Gascoyne.” He elaborated saying, “I believe the Tourism Industry is set to further improve throughout the Gascoyne as more people become aware of what the region has to offer and we are excited as a company to already be planning for such growth.”
“With tourism forecasts indicating growth in both domestic and international visitors, coupled with strong regional industry confidence, 2019 looks set to bring more success across our largest industry” states GDC Chairman Andy Munro, “we’re excited for the future of this key regional economic driver”.
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