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Make Perth the western gateway to Australia: WA Tourism Minister

To attract international visitors, we need to sell WA as the western gateway to Australia, WA Minister for Tourism; Racing and Gaming; Small Business; Defence Issues; Citizenship and Multicultural Interests, the Hon. Paul Papalia has told a CEDA audience.

Speaking in Perth on marketing Western Australia to the world, Mr Papalia discussed strategies and campaigns for tourism in WA. 

“You may have seen in the Superbowl an ad with Chris Hemsworth selling Australia. I can guarantee you we won’t get much return out of that because that replicates a lot of what Tourism Australia – the national body – does in that it markets the East Coast,” he said.

“I have repeatedly encountered politicians and executives from Tourism Australia and other players in the industry who say we all benefit when Sydney gets sold as the entry point. We don’t, and we say that constantly.

“We’ve said to the Federal Minister and to Tourism Australia, what we want you to do is sell us as the western gateway – the alternative way of getting to Australia. 

“We are targeting direct flights from new source markets that haven’t currently been serviced. 

“The Premier led a trade delegation to Shanghai in November last year. The Chairman of China Eastern committed to a trial starting later this year and we will be pushing to proceed on from there with regular direct flights from Shanghai. 

“If we get that direct flight, we will get uptake and we will lift our international student numbers because China is our second largest source of international students. 

“We only have one direct flight from China at the moment. 

“This will go to five days a week, it is currently only four. By comparison, Melbourne has 14 flights a day from China and Sydney has a dozen.

“That is a huge opportunity. China is a massive market. We only get 4.7 per cent of Chinese visitation at the moment. 

“I think we should set ourselves a target of achieving at least the per capita share.

“If we get 11 per cent, you more than double what you’re doing now…you can imagine the impact that will have.

“One of the other direct flights we’re working on is Tokyo. We haven’t had a direct flight from Tokyo since 2012 when Qantas stopped flying. We are in negotiations with the two Japanese airlines. 

“It is an attractive route. 

“When Qantas started direct routes between Brisbane and Tokyo a couple of years ago, in the first year they had 110,000 people fly between Brisbane and Tokyo. 

“We already have 120,000 fly between Perth and Tokyo, both ways, via indirect routes. Tourism WA…anticipate if we get a direct flight with a Japanese airliner…we could look at an 80 per cent increase in leisure travel from Japan. That is a significant increase and they are good quality tourists.

“The other potential source of a direct flight will be India.”

Mr Papalia said a trade delegation would be heading there in 2018 to speak with other airlines and other players with a view to try and attract a direct flight from India to Perth.

“Currently everyone has to fly via Singapore. We lose a lot of people who then select to go to the East Coast,” he said.

Mr Papalia said a direct flight would assist in Perth getting the per capita share of international students. 

“If we have a direct flight between India and WA, this is a high likelihood,” he said. 

“(Perth Airport Chief Executive Officer) Kevin Brown tells us that for every international student studying here in Perth, it equates to between four and five international flights every year. 

“Another key element of our strategy and tourism and selling ourselves to the world is cruise shipping.

“Cruise shipping has grown significantly in the last few years to the extent that we’ve got about 140 or so port visits…this year with significant amount of revenue for the regional ports in particular, but also for the city.”

Mr Papalia said that since coming into office, $1 million had been spent on port infrastructure with $7 million about to spent in Broome to dredge the port to ensure 24/7 access for ships, both of which assist in increasing cruise ship visits and therefore return to the state.

Other areas of focus are addressing the cost of regional airfares to encourage tourism to regional markets.

“People out in the regions are hurting because of airfares, clearly that has an impact on tourism,” he said.

“I think the key lies in trying to achieve an affordable flight to a very attractive destination – like Broome – that will compete with the market that has developed around Bali.

“There are 400,000 Western Australians who fly from Perth to Bali every year. If we can make it more affordable, more attractive, more competitive, we will get some of that market. We will be able to change behaviour amongst leisure travellers in Australia and ensure that our regional markets benefit.”

Speaking on interstate strategies, Mr Papalia said that WA had accrued a reputation for being very expensive but not very good which endures today.

“In September Tourism WA launched a campaign, a couple of million dollars brought forward from the budget to get out there and sell our hotels and I can tell you that worked. From September to the earlier part of this year, we had 52,417 additional people than the previous time last year, come to the state as a direct consequence of that campaign,” he said.

“We have then asked Tourism WA to continue on with that approach responding to the immediate needs. We have asked them to create a two-year action plan.

“Last week we launched on the east coast a campaign called Hotel Perth to tell people on the east coast that we are affordable and high quality and now is the time to come.”

Other campaigns include direct flights from London, sporting events as well as seasonal marketing of Broome and Exmouth.

“We’re going to have a dual purpose – we’re going to get rid of that reputation of being expensive and poor quality and we’re going to attract people over, there is a call to action to get people to come now,” he said.

“All of those campaigns are layered and occurring concurrently.

“I anticipate that we will get a significant increase in interstate visitation.”

Also at the event was Perth Airport Chief Executive Officer, Kevin Brown, Optus Stadium Chief Executive Officer, Mike McKenna and WA Minister for Local Government; Heritage; Culture and Arts the Hon. David Templeman, who participated in a panel discussion facilitated by Western Australian Indigenous Tourism Operators Council, Board Member, Tahn Donovan.