Margaret River and Busselton's tourism boom

WA Tourism Minister Paul Papalia (right) and Tourism WA chairman Nathan Harding.
WA Tourism Minister Paul Papalia (right) and Tourism WA chairman Nathan Harding.

Margaret River and Busselton received the highest ever number of visitors in 2018, according to tourism minister Paul Papalia.

In Busselton, a 16.1 per cent increase in visitors saw numbers 1 million, compared to 867,300 visitors in 2018.

Margaret River experienced an increase of 8.9 per cent reaching 1.6 million visitors in 2018, compared to 1.5 million in 2017.

Mr Papalia said 2018 was the biggest number of visitors to WA in history and that the tourism plan which was launched in March last year was working.

"We have launched a range of campaigns focused on growing international visitors, and in the next 13 months we will double the international marketing spend," he said.

"We will spend twice as much money as we normally do, which will primarily be based in nine countries we think will shift the dial in a hurry, such as Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, China, Japan, Germany, UK, New Zealand and the USA.

"We already get big numbers from them, if we spend more we will get even more, and I would throw India into that mix because we are very focused on flying direct flights from new markets."

Mr Papalia said with direct flights from Japan starting on September 1 this year there would be an increase in visitor numbers to the region because Margaret River was already well known there.

"Japan is a mature market and people are aware of the quality produce and wines that are available here, they also know a bit about the region," he said.

Events a draw card for region

Vasse MLA Libby Mettam said these numbers were very encouraging indicating the level of growth had more than made up for the falls during the first 12 months in the tourism portfolio under this government.

"There is no doubt there has been some real gains in having some leadership within this portfolio with the appointment of a managing director for tourism, which has been welcomed following advocacy from industry," she said.

"It is good to see this region and the state benefit from the tourism boom that we have been seeing across the country.

"This region has a critical role to play in growing WA tourism.

"This weekend with events such as Jazz by the Bay, the Drop, the Margaret River Pro, Down South MTB Festival and the Cullen Wine Excellence Awards is a great illustration of the diversity of appeal this region has on offer.

"It is a credit to the operators involved in these events and the tourism operators that this region is seeing such positive numbers."


While data from the National and International Visitor Surveys showed a record rise in overnight visitor numbers, many accommodation providers continue to experience a decline.

In 2017, there were around 480 listings across Busselton and Margaret River on Airbnb which included residential holiday homes, that figure has now risen to around 2,500.

Registered Accommodation Providers of the Margaret River Region spokesperson Debbie Noonan said most traditional accommodation providers were down 15 to 35 per cent.

"Everyone dropped their prices below winter rates this summer just to get bookings and many accommodation providers had vacancies over the long weekend and Easter," she said.

"We know the visitors are here but they are a different type of tourist, they are the self-catering tourist which effects everybody. Even the main streets are not getting the traffic, the shops are really feeling it as well."

Airbnb's head of public policy ANZ Brent Thomas said their community was helping turbocharge tourism in WA, which was driven by the changing preferences of travelers.

"More people from WA and abroad are choosing to stay with Airbnb. The number of guests staying in Airbnb listings in Busselton more than tripled in just two years," he said.

"Airbnb gives travellers greater and more affordable choice, which in turn grows the tourism pie.

"It is simple - more Airbnb guests means more jobs for locals. 53 cents in every Airbnb guest dollar in WA grows to local cafes and restaurants."

Mr Thomas said the estimated number of guests staying in Airbnb listings in Busselton grew from 11,300 in 2016 to more than 34,600 in 2018.

The estimated number of guests staying in Margaret River Airbnb listings more than doubled - from 24,700 in 2016 to more than 55,800 in 2018.

Deloitte Access Economics found in 2015-16 the Airbnb community contributed more than $100 million to WA's economy and supported more than 780 jobs.

Tourism operators

For tourist destinations such as the Busselton Jetty, the flow on effect of increased visitor numbers has seen a 15.6 per cent increase in paid numbers.

Busselton Jetty chief executive officer Lisa Shreeve said winning WA's major tourist attraction award last year and the circulation of digital media photos helped increase people's awareness of Busselton.

"Tourism experts say the hub and spoke model around major tourist icons is what gets people to a location and then the job is to disperse visitors," she said.

"Busselton Jetty's paid numbers were up last year on the back of publicity generated for new tours like the mermaid tours, the underwater helmet walks and new products like underwater dining."

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