WA tourism in crisis as overseas visitor numbers tumble

It’s got amazing beaches, great hotels and the only direct air service from Australia to London, but WA’s international visitor numbers are in freefall.

New international arrival figures at Perth Airport reveal a 14 per cent decline in October and November.

Speaking to The West Australian, Tourism Council head Evan Hall said it was “impossible to over-exaggerate the disastrous state of the industry”.

“We are in a crisis,” he said. “We’ve seen more than 1200 jobs go in the last financial year and it has become inevitable that hundreds more will follow.

“Australia is experiencing an international tourism boom, but those people are not coming to WA. Tourism spending in our State is down by $180 million and if that continues year on year, we will see an industry crisis that mirrors what occurred with the collapse of Ansett, September 11 and the SARS virus.”

The tourism industry has called for an urgent $130 million investment by the WA government, describing it as a “State emergency”.

The Tourism Council wants an extra $26 million a year over the next five years to market the state overseas, saying the current $85 million annual budget allocation for tourism in the forward estimates, totalling $425 million, would not “stop the slide”.

But Tourism Minister Paul Papalia said you had to take a long term view. “We know international tourism markets take longer to shift,” he said.

He also maintained that WA couldn’t match the combined marketing spend of the East Coast.

“We have established a $30 million aviation fund aimed at making Perth the nation’s western gateway and we’ve seen results with ANA commencing a direct flight from Tokyo, seven days a week from September,” he told The West Australian.

Local tourism operators agreed that something needed to be done to turn the situation around.

SeaLink general manager Andrew Lane told The West Australian that there was “a lot of pain out there”.

“Perth is suffering a perfect storm,” he said. “The local economy is depressed and there has been a downturn in domestic and international visitors. We need to invest in campaigns that give people a reason to come here.”

Adam Barnard, managing director of tour and coach operator ADAMS, said it had never been this bad.

“I know the Government is shy about spending, but this money would be an investment,” he said.