Escape events to be held in Swan Valley

Pierra WillixBusselton Dunsborough Times

Despite assurances the Margaret River Gourmet Escape would continue in its namesake region, the State Government has announced some events will be held in the Swan Valley next year.

Yesterday, the Government announced the contract with event owner IMG Culinary was renewed for another 12 months but with the latest agreement coming to an end, it would review the State’s investment in food and wine event tourism and expand the festival to also showcase the Swan Valley.

As previously reported, the future of the event was up in the air, with Tourism Minister Paul Papalia saying in June the Government was assessing a proposal by organisers about future funding.

During the festival opening last week, Tourism WA chairmanNathan Harding addressed so-called “fake news” about the future of the event, assuring guests it would go ahead and not go to another State or location.

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Mr Papalia said the Government decided it was the right time to explore opportunities to expand food and wine tourism and maximise outcomes for WA.

He said the Government understood the value of events that supported State tourism outcomes but needed to ensure it drove interstate and international visits.

“We also want a clear strategy for food and wine festivals that enhances our trade and agricultural export outcomes,” he said.

“We want to ensure that the high-quality food and wine at these events is readily available to be served on tables in China, Singapore, Japan and other key markets.”

Vasse MLA and shadow tourism minister Libby Mettam voiced concerns about diluting the promotion of Margaret River.

“The minister has only committed to a food and wine festival in WA after 2018,” she said.

“There is no commitment on funding or that Margaret River would be a part of that festival.”

“We are losing an opportunity to build on what has been built so far.”

The review will involve stakeholder consultation to determine final specifications for future events.

Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan said the Escape cemented the State’s reputation as a premier food and wine destination, but the Government was keen to extend the festival over a longer period and spread activities across other food and wine destinations.

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