Food festival naming woes
WA Tourism Council chief executive Evan Hall says the previous government made a crucial mistake funding the Margaret River Gourmet Escape without making sure taxpayers would own the event name.
Amid a shake-up planned from next year — described by WA Tourism Minister Paul Papalia as an inevitable “refresh” of the food and wine festival — six-year Gourmet Escape operator IMG Culinary could lose the gig and potentially take the name with it
During the past six years, the international events group received an estimated annual $2.6 million through Royalties for Regions, recently criticised by Mr Hall for focusing on brand awareness without a significant boost in visitor numbers.
“We want to see an event that is geared up to attract visitors,” Mr Hall told the Times.
“An event that people actually turn up to.”
The independent tourism chief said the region needed a destination event, but foreshadowed the redesign — now under way — might not closely resemble the Gourmet Escape or use the brand name if IMG were not involved.
“We believe the brand name of the event should be owned by the Government or a local body and not by a private company that could be transferred to another location,” Mr Hall said.
In reports last year, Vasse MLA and shadow tourism minister Libby Mettam flagged worries the festival could be poached by Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula — claims described as “fake news” by Tourism WA chairman Nathan Harding.
IMG said it could not comment on ownership of the Gourmet Escape name because of deliberations around the festival’s future.
Tourism Minister Paul Papalia acknowledged the name problem, but declined to comment for similar reasons.
Answering to the previous government decision when he was regional development minister, Warren-Blackwood MLA Terry Redman said his main concern now was Labor cutting funding support to a Margaret River-based food festival and diluting the promotion by including Perth’s Swan Valley.
“Naming rights is not something a funding sponsor generally gets involved in, so I had no awareness that this would become an issue,” he said.
Ms Mettam also dodged the name ownership question.
“The problem the McGowan Government now faces is that it cannot call this event the Margaret River Gourmet Escape if it is everywhere else it takes years to build a brand and I hope the value of this international tourism product will not be lost going forward,” she said.
The Government’s call for new proposals for the 2019 event closed this week, with an announcement due in April.
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