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Backpackers rush WA

WA AS a backpacking destination is continuing to gain favour, with growth running 50 per cent higher than the Australian average.

The latest Bureau of Tourism Research’s International Visitor Survey figures show almost 95,000 backpackers visited WA in 1999, up 31 per cent on the previous year.

These budget-orientated visitors stayed an average of 37 nights and made up 17 per cent of all international visitors to WA last year.

Australia-wide, the back-packer market did not increase at the same rate but still increased a significant 20 per cent over the period.

Figures released by the Australian Tourist Commission indicate that about 22 per cent of the 423,000 backpackers who came to Australia during that year visited WA during their stay.

ATC managing director John Morse said the visitors generated almost $2 billion in export revenue to Australia.

“Australia is proving to be a hot favourite holiday destination for backpackers,” he said.

“Australia’s diversity of attractions and activities combined with the working holiday-makers scheme, allowing visitors to work while on holiday, provide backpackers with an ideal holiday destination.

“Backpackers are becoming an increasingly important segment for our industry and the ATC is running a number of campaigns throughout Europe, North America, New Zealand and also Asia to grow the number of backpackers to Australia each year.”

European backpackers to WA increased 50 per cent, with those coming from Germany jumping 41 per cent while UK backpackers increased 35 per cent.

WA Tourism Commission CEO Shane Crockett said the substantial jump in visitor numbers, particularly in the backpacker market, could be attributed to the nature-based tourism experience which was an emerging industry luring international visitors to experience a piece of what WA had to offer.

“We have been successful in marketing WA’s key attributes as fresh, free, natural and spirited,” Mr Crockett said.

“This is exactly what visitors experience when they visit our State, and that’s why WA is fast becoming the choice for backpacking holidays.”

Backpackers spent about $215 million in WA each year. Of that, almost $70 million was spent in regional WA.

According to one backpacker operator, K.L (Kook) Yoon, proprietor of the Aberdeen Lodge, things have changed drastically in the 11 years he has been involved in the industry. A decade ago, he was one of just four operators in Perth; now there are more than 20.

Mr Yoon said the type of backpackers had also changed during this time, from the “hippie type” to a more sophisticated traveller with more cash and greater demands for quality accommodation.

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