Industry concern with tourism restructure in midst of visitor downturn

20 June 2017

The tourism industry is urging the State Government to reconsider submerging Tourism WA into a new mega-department, as the latest visitor statistics show an alarming decline in the number of people travelling to and within the State.

The State Government plans to absorb Tourism WA, the independent agency responsible for promoting WA, into the Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation as part of its Machinery of Government changes. Following the announcement of the restructure, tourism businesses and industry bodies across WA have voiced significant concerns with the potential impact of the changes.

The National Visitor Survey results for the year ending March 2017 show Western Australia has the poorest performance in domestic tourism of any State. The number of intrastate overnight visitors in WA fell by 3.9 per cent compared with average growth of 3.4 per cent across Australia. Interstate visitor numbers decreased by 8.2 per cent, in comparison with average growth of 3.7 per cent across Australia. In total, Western Australia is down by more than 450,000 visitors compared with last year. 

“States that are performing well in domestic tourism, such as Queensland, have specialist tourism marketing organisations solely focused on increasing visitation and jobs,” Tourism Council WA CEO Evan Hall said.

“Every state that has submerged their tourism marketing organisation within a department has regretted and later reversed the decision.”

With the figures showing Western Australia is well and truly in the midst of a tourism and hospitality downturn, now was not the time to downgrade Tourism WA’s status as an independent marketing body when so many jobs were at risk, Mr Hall said.

“The proposed changes have created uncertainty across the tourism industry, creating concerns that moving Tourism WA into a larger department will reduce its independence and effectiveness as a marketing body, resulting in less visitor and job growth,” Mr Hall said.

“Industry has welcomed the government’s strong commitment to tourism. The government has committed $425 million over five years for tourism marketing and events to drive jobs growth, however the scale of jobs growth from this investment depends on the structure, expertise and effectiveness of Tourism WA.”

Mr Hall said it was critical that Tourism WA was able to operate effectively in the short term to drive visitation and prevent job losses in the tourism and hospitality sector.

“There is a real risk that these changes will further erode the specialist marketing capacity of Tourism WA, which will significantly impact visitor numbers. Destination marketing gets the best results when government works with tourism industry specialists to drive visitor bookings into WA,” he said.

Mr Hall said Tourism Council WA had been consulting with the State Government to relay industry concerns about the Machinery of Government changes.

“The industry is seeking that the restructure be put on hold and Tourism WA is refocused on undertaking an immediate tactical marketing campaign to address the decline in visitation,” he said.

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