A spring in my step

THINGS appear to be going swimmingly in the Swan Valley. About $28 million was invested in the region in the past financial year and this year’s Spring in the Valley Festival is expect to attract more than 60,000 people.

But it seems all is not sweet in the valley of wine, food and chocolate.

President of the Swan Valley Tourism Commission (SVTC) Corin Lamont said that, despite the increased investment and numbers, the valley was suffering because it was not considered to be a Regional Tourism Association (RTA) by the State Government. The valley, therefore, missed out on various forms of support and financial funding received by other RTAs around the State.

“We are put at a disadvantage to other regions,” Ms Lamont said.

“It will have a negative effect on our region if they are given funding and we are not.

“We would like to be classified as an RTA. It’s not fair. It’s not equitable. As a tourism group we are going to address this issue with the Tourism Minister (Clive Brown).”

The SVTC relies heavily on funding from local businesses to support its activities, which basically means promotion of the Swan Valley.

The SVTC’s Spring in the Valley Festival costs up to $300,000 to run and generates about $3 million in revenue.

Such events rely on contributions from local businesses. There’s a real community spirit in the Swan Valley, with everybody doing their bit to ensure the success of events, including the recent launch for the Spring in the Valley Festival. Unpaid representatives from a variety of local enterprises arrived, set up stalls, gave away product and contributed to the event’s organisation.

“It was not easy,” Ms Lamont said in reference to organising the launch. “But we had the most successful sponsorship endeavour yet in terms of support from local business.”

Ms Lamont said the SVTC wasn’t the only metro-based tourism industry that felt at odds with the ‘no RTA classification no regional funding’ policy.

“Tourism in the metropolitan area has a problem. If you are outside the metro, no problem, you get funding as an RTA. But there is nothing in the metropolitan area,” she said.

“We are very disappointed in the way this has been handled.”

Ms Lamont said she felt the State Government did not really understand the importance of tourism in the Swan Valley and other metro tourism regions.

“I would like to see awareness, acknowledgement and recognition by government at all levels that the economic impact of tourism in the valley is important and that it is a real industry. The awareness is there, but it is minimal.”

The State Government will contribute $50,000 towards the development of a food and wine trail in the region, to be launched in 2002, with the City of Swan putting in a further $10,000.

Despite the SVTC’s problems gaining access to government money, the valley itself has been fairly successful at luring the all-important investment dollar. There has been continued investment in the region, which is critical to its long-term success.

Recent developments in the area include the new West Swan Winery, the Ironbark Brewery and expansion to the Swan Brook and Sandalford Caversham Estates.

Other established businesses also have started the process of expansion, with the Edgecombe Brothers and Upper Reach winery both adding new cafes.

“The largest areas of investment are obviously in the development of vineyards and wineries, restaurants to accompany those wineries and accommodation,” Ms Lamont said.

Investment in the area may be strong, but funding has a great effect on efforts to market the valley.

“At present, marketing opportunities are limited by funding,” Ms Lamont said.

The Spring in the Valley Festival is the valley’s largest PR ambassador – acting as a launching platform for the marketing of many businesses in the area.

It is considered to be one of WA’s most successful tourism events.

To further increase awareness of the valley, this year the SVTC is sending several representative chefs from local restaurants to participate in Tasting and Wine Australia to be held in Adelaide in October.

The Spring in the Valley Festival will run from Friday October 12 to Sunday October 14.

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