More opportunity for tourism growth: Papalia

WA Tourism Minister Paul Papalia. Photo: Jesinta Burton.
WA Tourism Minister Paul Papalia. Photo: Jesinta Burton.

Despite international visitation to Esperance having increased by 45 per cent in 2018, WA Tourism Minister Paul Papalia said there were still more opportunities for growth outside the peak season.

Tourism Research Australia statistics revealed a record-breaking 487,100 international holiday makers travelled to WA in 2018, an increase of 12.6 per cent.

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The growth was reflected in Esperance, with more than 26,000 international tourists.

Mr Papalia encouraged stakeholders to band together to find creative ways to 'extend the shoulders' of the region's peak tourism season and capitalise on accommodation that would otherwise be empty.

"Forty-five per cent is great growth but I suspect it will continue growing because it's a great destination and given a lot of profile in our marketing," he said.

"There are times outside the peak season where opportunity lies for growth and I think it's got to be about extending the shoulders.

"Esperance is beautiful all year round - it's about marketing that.

"Even what we consider to be wet and cold is still relatively mild for some parts of the world and Esperance is beautiful all year round.

"There is still an opportunity to grow the visitor numbers and fill accommodation here but just in other parts of the year.

"Putting together packages that include discounts on accommodation,  airfares and other opportunities - that's how you drive visitor numbers.

"It's about putting accommodation, that would otherwise be empty and generating no return, on the market at a reduced price."

For the last two years the region's peak tourism body, Australia's Golden Outback, have been doing just that - running campaigns from late January to drive visitation until May and June.

While the visitation numbers were encouraging, the organisation's chief executive officer Marcus Falconer said the next step was attracting accommodation investment.

"To a degree, we let the summer season almost look after itself," he said.

"We try to drive visitation up until May and June because that's where we believe we can make the most difference and there is the most opportunity to fill the existing capacity we have.

"Longer term, we'd be looking at how we could attract investment from accommodation providers.

"Are we in a position where we might start attracting developers?

"To be honest, I think we've just scratched the surface.

"I think there are quite a number of opportunities for a range of markets, particularly the UK.

"The marketing we do throughout Germany is working but I think we can add weight to that.

"We're also putting a lot of effort into marketing the Great Southern Edge, from Perth to Esperance, to some international markets as a two-week itinerary."