Tourism

Is the new tourism boost too late for WA?

Lauren Croft

The Western Australian government has just announced they will give Perth a tourism boost – but with expensive airline prices, will it make a dent in Perth’s sinking hotel occupancy rates?

The WA Government is not only examining Perth’s struggling tourism market, but also the impact expensive airfares can have on it. An inquiry was released last week examined exactly how communities, businesses and tourism are effected by outrageous regional airfare prices.

According to Perth NowEvan Hall, from the Tourism Council of WA, said “Airfare prices were the ‘No.1 issue’ for regional tourism and needed to be ‘thoroughly examined'”.

A flight to Perth is the longest across Australia – over five hours, and usually costing over $300. Flying to Auckland is around the same price but takes two hours less – with a flight to Fiji only lasting four hours.

So it’s not surprising that the Australian Hotels Association (WA) is welcoming a tourism boost, as other countries keep winning out against Perth.

The WA government has proposed to re-evaluate the Tourism Western Australia budget – putting two million dollars towards driving increased tourist visitation through Perth: the gateway to the rest of WA.

Australian Hotels Association WA CEO Bradley Woods said the campaigns would be especially important during the next six to eight months for driving tourism and event visits to both the Perth and wider WA markets.

“We’ve had an enormous increase in room capacity without a corresponding increase in leisure and event visitation, so there are many hundreds of job-creating opportunities that are not materialising and this campaign will put bums on seats, bodies in beds and create the opportunities for the tourism industry to deliver for the State,” he said.

And Perth needs bodies in beds, badly. Since 2012 over 2000 new rooms have opened in the city – with over 2500 currently under construction. This means huge opportunities for new jobs and tourism, with the campaign set to “reignite” Perth’s low hotel occupancy rates.

But will the campaign be successful with increasingly expensive airline prices? In last week’s inquiry into regional airfare prices, airlines made waves with their submissions.

Virgin Australia said, “Most of the intrastate routes we serve in Western Australia do not deliver acceptable commercial returns,” according to Perth Now. 

They also warned that prices were likely to rise as a result of being unsustainable – and said that many routes in WA were used by fly-in, fly-out passengers rather than travellers.

And Virgin isn’t the only airline losing out; Qantas said even it’s profits from fly-in, fly-out passengers were dropping – by as much as 30 per cent between Perth and the Pilbara.

“Since 2005, 14 airlines have ceased operations altogether. In Western Australia in particular, 48 airlines have been acquired or become bankrupt since 1960,” it said in the inquiry.

But even with airlines set to increase airfare prices or decrease routes, Tourism Minister Paul Papalia is still hoping to make a difference with this huge campaign.

It will be multi-focused on co-operative marketing opportunities with airlines, travel agents and travel websites to try and build WA back up as a hot tourist destination – focusing on markets like Sydney, Melbourne, China and Singapore.

Hotels are also a main focus of the campaign: offering incentives for people to travel immediately to take advantage of special hotel package rates – despite the pricey airfare.

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