Japanese tourist figures can’t dampen industry’s enthusiasm

A WAVE of positive announcements and a firm commitment from the Government have swept aside the dark clouds that have hung over the tourism industry since the election.

Combined with strong forward bookings for the wildflower season, the future appears to be considerably brighter than it did just a few weeks ago, according to local tourism operators.

However, figures released by the Australian Tourism Council indicate arrivals from one of Australia’s biggest international markets, Japan, are down 4.7 per cent in May compared with the previous year.

The overall tourism growth of 2.7 per cent at May 2001 highlights the fact that the industry will need to work hard to reach the projected growth figures, published by the Tourism Fore-casting Council, of an average of 8.3 per cent over the 12-month period ending December 2001.

“We’ve come through a difficult period in tourism administration. With a change of Government after eight years the (new) Government needed to gain an understanding of the industry,” Tourism Council president Laurie O’Meara said.

In addition to giving the Convention Centre the go-ahead last week, the Government has just announced the $4 million visitors centre in Karijini National Park and significantly reduced fees for tourism operators who want to be part of the WA Tourism Network.

The Network uses speech recognition technology to answer consumer inquiries about attractions and activities and connects them with people with local knowledge in visitor centres around the State.

The recent Tourism Awards were a turning point, according to Feature Tours chief executive officer Manny Papadoulis.

“It was the first time the new minister got up and gave a positive speech from the heart. It made us think maybe he does appreciate that tourism is made up of 4,000 small businesses,” Mr Papadoulis said. “I think he’s rapidly learnt how the industry works,”

With the wildflower season approaching, many operators are nearing one of the busiest times of the year.

“We would turn over 30 per cent of our total turnover in these nine weeks,’ Mr Papadoulis said.

“Because it’s the busiest time, bookings start coming in February and March. At this stage we’re 100 per cent up on our forward booking from last year.”

Doug Pow runs Western Geographic Eco Tours, a business that takes people on 4WD tours to see the wildflowers north east of Perth.

The short season, which covers just a few weeks in August and September, is a hectic time of the year for the business.

“We get quite a few bookings through the Internet and a lot of word-of-mouth bookings,” Mr Pow said.

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