Industry leaders meet in Geraldton to discuss how State tourism can thrive in a post-COVID world

Phoebe PinGeraldton Guardian
Tourism Australia managing director Phillipa Harrison at the WA Regional Tourism Conference in Geraldton.
Camera IconTourism Australia managing director Phillipa Harrison at the WA Regional Tourism Conference in Geraldton. Credit: Phoebe Pin/Geraldton Guardian

WA must embrace its isolation, unique stories and opportunities for adventure to continue to attract tourists in a post-COVID world.

This was the key message of the 2021 WA Regional Tourism Conference, attended by about 300 delegates in Geraldton this week.

The first day was dedicated to Aboriginal tourism, with guests hearing from tour operators and industry leaders on the second day of the event.

As he welcomed guests, City of Greater Geraldton Mayor Shane Van Styn said council planned to further develop the town’s identity as the gateway to the Mid West.

“As the City of Greater Geraldton, we embrace the Pink Lakes, we embrace the Pinnacles, we embrace the Kalbarri Skywalks and we embrace the Abrolhos islands,” he said.

“Indeed that is a unique hook as we grow our unique identification ... we really want to use the Abrolhos going forward to attract people into the region.”

City of Greater Geraldton Mayor Shane Van Styn at the WA Regional Tourism Conference.
Camera IconCity of Greater Geraldton Mayor Shane Van Styn at the WA Regional Tourism Conference. Credit: Phoebe Pin/Geraldton Guardian

Newly minted Tourism Minister David Templeman told delegates he was “loving” his fresh portfolio and said government was dedicated to working with industry to showcase the best of the Mid West and the rest of WA.

“We have a remarkable story to tell the rest of the world and those in industry are best placed to do that, but it has got to be in partnership and collaboration,” he said.

“We have to recognise that while COVID-19 has had a remarkably negative impact on the industry, it also matters what we do now to prepare for a post-COVID experience.

“I want to work with tourism operators and all the stakeholders to hone our story, focus on any weakness and ensure when we are able to welcome visitors in greater numbers across borders and international borders, that we give them an absolutely remarkable experience we can be proud of.”

The time it takes to travel to Australia from other continents coupled with Australian holidays being relatively expensive has in the past discouraged international holidaymakers, but Tourism Australia managing director Phillipa Harrison said tourism operators could use these factors to their advantage when borders reopened.

“We know there is a high desirability for Australian experiences but when it comes down to actually coming here, the rational barriers of time distance and cost get in the way,” she said.

“I think we have a real opportunity now to really just embrace that and showcase that as our unique selling point to the world. We are going to really lean into those things that were previously headwinds and we are going to make them tail winds.”

Tourism Minister David Templeman at the WA Regional Tourism Conference in Geraldton.
Camera IconTourism Minister David Templeman at the WA Regional Tourism Conference in Geraldton. Credit: Phoebe Pin/Geraldton Guardian

Ms Harrison said marketing Australia as the go-to destination for unique nature and adventure would also target the domestic market.

“We want to encourage Australians to travel at home the same way they would overseas, because when Australians travel overseas they spend a lot more per day and they do a lot more experiences,” she said.

“What we have to do is get them to prioritise spending on a holiday instead of home renovation or a new car or buying a new house.”

Tourism WA acting managing director Derryn Belford said much of the organisation’s marketing activities were focussed on interstate travellers.

“We are looking to drive bookings out of the Eastern States while getting people to commit to travel to WA,” she said. “We are also targeting the high-value travellers so we can actually position WA as that aspirational destination with those bucket list experiences.”

Tourism WA acting managing director Derryn Belford.
Camera IconTourism WA acting managing director Derryn Belford. Credit: Phoebe Pin/Geraldton Guardian

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails