Esperance B&B By the Sea closes, celebrates 18 years in business

Friends and colleagues in the Esperance tourism sector help to remove the Esperance B&B by the Sea sign from the property entry, marking the official closure of the business. Photo: Supplied.
Friends and colleagues in the Esperance tourism sector help to remove the Esperance B&B by the Sea sign from the property entry, marking the official closure of the business. Photo: Supplied.

After 18 years and almost 6,000 visitors, Heather and Stephen Gee have closed their Esperance B&B By the Sea to officially begin their retirement.

The pair purchased the block of land, which features panoramic views of Blue Haven and the islands in the Recherche Archipelago, for their retirement but soon realised it was a view that they wanted to share.

"I felt so guilty," Heather said.

"I told my husband that I felt we had to share it with [the view] other people."

Mr and Mrs Gee later designed the house as a hosted bed and breakfast, one of only two in Esperance, and opened the doors in August of 2001.

Mrs Gee said she had no idea the next 18 years would be so busy, hosting visitors from across the globe.

"At the time, I was told I would burn out after five years. When we first started, I thought we'd host a few people every now and then," she said.

"To have had almost 6,000 people has been amazing and, in the last five years, 59 per cent of visitors have been international.

"There is not one person that I wouldn't want back again, they've all been the loveliest people."

Mrs Gee said she had always been passionate about the region and local tourism, becoming heavily involved in the region's tourism body and serving as chair of Tourism Esperance, and had been blown away by the recent growth in visitation.

Over 18 years, 37 per cent of guests were international visitors, with 25 per cent interstate and the remaining 38 per cent from WA.

However, in the last four years, the number of international visitors has grown 60 per cent.

The business also took out a number of awards, including www.TakeABreak.com.au's 'People's Choice for Hosted Accommodation' in 2009 and the Tourism Council of WA's 'Tourism Accommodation Elite Award'.

Despite having loved the business, Mrs Gee said it had been a big commitment.

"It's been a wonderful journey, but the workload... I started when I was 55, so the workload now is a little much," she said

"It's also the commitment to be there, we're really looking forward to travelling. It's been a real team effort, my husband and I.

"I always get such a thrill when they say it's their first time in Australia and they're here in Esperance.

"I think Esperance is becoming a year-round location. We have a very mild winter and there is so much to see.

"I will certainly miss meeting all of these beautiful people from all around the world."

Mr and Mrs Gee celebrated the business' success with a brunch, attended by members of the local tourism community, which concluded with the group officially removing the business' sign.

When asked what was next for the pair, Mrs Gee said she couldn't wait to formally retire and begin travelling herself.

"What's next? Retirement. That's what I thought I would be doing 18 years ago, and on this beautiful block that overlooks Blue Haven."