The clouds of economic uncertainty are clearing in Western Australia (WA), with strong tourism numbers feeding a growing optimism that WA is set to ride the second wave of an unprecedented resources boom.
Latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show that the number of international visitors to WA for the year ending June jumped 2.1 percent, bucking a national downturn of 1.4 percent.
Confirmation by Treasurer Troy Buswell that the state’s budget surplus will not dip under $200 million, a big drop in the unemployment rate, which is now approaching boomtime levels, and another $70 billion in LNG contracts signed off from the Gorgon gas fields, have put a spring in the step of even the most pessimistic of Sandgropers.
Tourism Western Australia CEO Richard Muirhead believed the strong results reflect a growing perception that WA offered visitors a different experience from other states.
He said the jump in visitors to the Kimberley was a direct result of international exposure generated by Baz Luhrmann’s film Australia. Mr. Muirhead said a marketing campaign had been formulated and linked to the film.
“We have tourism operators telling us they have had a significant increase in demand, and the Broome and Kununurra visitor centers have experienced an increase in visitor numbers by 24 percent and 8 percent respectively from this time last year,” he said. “At Broome International Airport, total arrivals for the first three months of 2009 were almost 5000 higher than 2008.”
Queenslander Andrew Rasmussen, who with wife Felicity and baby Thomas are about to fly back to Brisbane, headed west to see family members and spend some time taking in the wildflowers north of Perth.
“We were a bit restricted because of the baby, but we still had eight days north of Perth taking in the sights, including the Pinnacles,” said Andrew, a mechanical engineer. “We’re both from regional Queensland, so we enjoy the open spaces. We were really impressed with the scenery, and we thought the prices were about right.”
Other states were less upbeat about tourism prospects, with the country’s leading tourist destination saying it was going through one of its toughest periods ever.
Tourism Queensland CEO Anthony Hayes said while two million international visitors spent almost $4bn when they visited the Sunshine State in the past year, the global financial crisis and swine flu had hit the Asian market hard.
“While the overall numbers were down by 5 percent, visitors stayed longer and expenditure was up by 2 percent,” he said. “In challenging financial times holiday travel is generally impacted more than any other form of travel. This is particularly detrimental for Queensland, given that holiday visitors are a key market for the state.”
Tourism Queensland was now focusing on “hard-hitting tactical domestic marketing campaigns aimed at getting more bums on seats and heads in beds,” he said.