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Latest tourism figures show challenges for Western Australia
With the latest International Visitor Survey revealing record incoming tourism figures, Western Australia has reversed the national trend with a decline in visitor nights and spending.
While overseas tourists have flocked to places such as Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory, which in the past year saw their numbers surge by 20 and 15.8% respectively, Western Australia received nearly two million fewer nights spent by international visitors in the year to the end of March 2018 compared to the previous 12-month period.
Overall overseas visitor numbers to Western Australia did increase, but these visitors’ stays were shorter, with resultant spending down 8.3% - a loss of $200 million.
With the current Western Australian Government having featured tourism as an important part of its election campaign, the figures are a significant reverse.
While two weeks before last year's election, current Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan stated “our plan for tourism is a real game changer for WA.”
Now in power, Premier Mark McGowan has repeatedly made the point that it could not fix things immediately, regularly claiming it was looking to "clean up the mess" after "eight-and-a-half years of neglect" under the predecing administration.
While the new Government has faced a number of challenges on the tourism front, some of its decisions have created issues of their own.
It chose to merge Tourism WA into a ‘super-department’ and sack the person who had been overseeing the agency prior to that, paying him out $375,000.
Less than a year later, Stephen Wood, the person the Government hand-picked to lead that super-department, was also sacked due to concerns about the way tourism was being managed.
Wood walked away with a $500,000 payout, with the Government admitting tourism had not been given the prominence it needed to have within that department.
At the time, Tourism Council of WA Chief Executive Evan Hall criticised the Government's performance on tourism, commenting “the Government has made tourism jobs growth … a top priority, however there's a huge gulf between the Government's plans and what's being delivered on the ground.”
Hall added that the "bureaucratisation" of Western Australia's tourism and education marketing had led to a lack of specialised leadership at the top of Tourism WA.
The latest Tourism Research Australia figures showed that every other State recorded growth in international visitor numbers and spend, with some posting double-digit percentage increases during the year.
Image: Perth's Elizabeth Quay.
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