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Survey finds WA tourism business activity down by up to 73 per cent amid coronavirus pandemic

August 6th, 2020 | | Tourism

Despite a busy July school holidays, a Tourism Council survey has painted a bleak picture of Western Australia‘s tourism sector.

Key points:

  • West Australians are flocking to the South West with the border closed
  • Other regions are suffering heavily, recording a big drop in trade
  • But cheap flights to the Kimberley sold out in just seven days

According to the survey, tourism business activity in the state’s North West in June and July was down 73 per cent on last year.

Close behind was the Perth region, recording a drop of 62 per cent.

But the South West, where accommodation has been hard to come by recently, bucked the trend, recording a six per cent bump in tourism business activity.

Tourism Council of WA chief executive Evan Hall said the survey showed West Australians were favouring self-drive destinations and low-cost, self-contained accommodation.

“While there has clearly been some pent-up demand for intrastate travel, those visitors are not travelling and spending in the same way as out-of-state visitors,” he said.

“We encourage Western Australians to consider travelling to parts of WA they’ve never visited before and to book local tours and experiences, as well as accommodation.”

Lake Argyle as seen from the window of a plane.
WA’s North West has seen a big drop in tourism business activity, survey findings say.(Supplied: Kingfisher Tours)

Huge declines for some businesses

Kununurra-based tour operator Rosie Sandover said bookings for her Kingfisher Tours business were down 95 per cent on last year.

The company usually takes visitors to attractions such as the Bungle Bungles by air, but having to cater solely for West Australians because of bans on interstate and international travel had meant offering cheaper options targeting people vacationing in their own state.

A close up of Rosie Sandover wearing a black shirt in front of a beige wall.
Kimberley tour operator Rosie Sandover says her business has drastically changed its operations.(Supplied: Rosie Sandover)

“We’ve brought a lot of our tours back onto the ground and we’ve made a lot more of our walking tours with our guides,” Ms Sandover said.

She said her business was also trying to work with customers wanting to see the Gibb River Road and its gorges but who were unable to stay at the popular El Questro Station because it was closed for the season.

“Even though Emma Gorge isn’t open or El Questro isn’t open, this is their first time to the Kimberley and they really want to get out on the Gibb River Road and they want to cross the Pentecost [River] and they want to go across Ivanhoe Crossing,” she said.

“So we’ve got our guides out, a couple of them in four-wheel drives.”

A woman wearing a black tshirt and a headset looks out a plane window.
Kingfisher Tours has used COVID-19 to offer more training to its Aboriginal guides.(Supplied: Kingfisher Tours)

‘Be a bit more positive,’ Premier replies

Premier Mark McGowan was unimpressed with the Tourism Council’s comments.

“We’re going through a pandemic,” he said.

“We can’t have people from the east come in, we can’t have international tourists come in.

“We’re advertising massively in intrastate advertising campaigns and all the feedback we’re getting is there’s been huge take up around Western Australia.

“I just urge that body [the Tourism Council] to be a bit more positive.”

A group of four tourists stand on a jetty taking a selfie on Rottnest Island with the ocean behind them.
The WA Government says it has taken significant steps to help the industry through a difficult time.(AAP: Tony McDonough)

But Mr Hall said, while some businesses were “doing well”, others were “doing very poorly”.

“We are reporting only what businesses are telling us, which is it’s a mixed bag across the state,” he said.

Rush for cheap flights to WA’s north

In news celebrated by both parties, cheap flights recently announced from Perth to the Kimberley sold out in seven days.

Mr McGowan said it was a great result.

A small number of tourists ride a camel train down Cable Beach, near Broome, WA.
The Government has been trying to encourage locals to head north with discounted flights.(ABC News: Andrew Seabourne)

“I was in the Kimberley last week for a day. [I] was overwhelmed with West Australians having a holiday,” he said.

“So many people said to me, ‘I haven’t been here for 10 or 20 years, this is the first time we’ve been back because we always go to Bali or we always go to Thailand.'”

The Premier said the State Government was working on more regional flight deals to come.

“We’ve also done affordable fares to Exmouth and to Esperance and to other parts of the state and we’ll continue to work on that with the industry,” he said.

Source: ABC

Sourced by Mike Barrow