20/01/2020 - 10:02

Jetty dives in with commercial direction

20/01/2020 - 10:02

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Busselton Jetty will strengthen its position as one of the South West’s foremost tourist attractions on the back of new amenities and renovations to the site, according to chief executive Lisa Shreeve.

The longest timber-piled jetty in the Southern Hemisphere, the Busselton Jetty features an underwater observatory and easy access, despite its 1,841-metre length. Photos: Gabriel Oliveira

A concerted effort to lift the amenity and appeal of Busselton Jetty is bearing fruit.

Busselton Jetty will strengthen its position as one of the South West’s foremost tourist attractions on the back of new amenities and renovations to the site, according to chief executive Lisa Shreeve.

Ms Shreeve told Business News new dining and cultural additions to Busselton Jetty would cement its place as a catalyst for tourism to the region.

“You see a photo of the Eiffel Tower, Machu Picchu or the Sydney Harbour Bridge, that’s what gets people in,” Ms Shreeve said.

“You’re looking at somewhere to go around the world, you’re on Facebook or a travel site, and you scroll and flick through and something jumps out at you.

“When we show a beautiful drone photo of the beautiful turquoise ocean and this red train running along it … people stop and look.

“I think that uniqueness makes people stop and pay attention, because everyone’s looking for that selfie moment where they can brag to their friends and say, ‘Look where I’ve been’.”

A signpost, at the far end of the jetty, showing the distances to several locations around the world.

Busselton Jetty is managed by a not for profit, which is charged with raising funds for the jetty and promoting conservation.

It earned $4.33 million in revenue in the year to June 2019.

Busselton Jetty attracted 351,404 paying visitors in the second-half of 2019, and Ms Shreeve said further improvements to the facility’s amenity would burnish the site’s reputation in the region.

Included among these are an electromagnetic shark curtain, which makes swimming safer by deterring sharks and manta rays, and renovations to the underwater observatory.

Busselton Jetty features an underwater observatory.

A beachfront dining and venue precinct, Jetty Village is set to begin construction next month, with SMC Marine overseeing the build.

Paid for by a combination of government grants, private donations and reserves from the not-for-profit organisation that manages Busselton Jetty, the site is expected to open in October.

“We couldn’t do that and couldn’t bring new infrastructure to the jetty if we weren’t making money,” Ms Shreeve said.

“We couldn’t try new things … if we didn’t know we had the rest of the business operating sustainably.”

The jetty’s current position marks a significant turnaround from five years ago, when Ms Shreeve said the organisation incurred a small trading loss after a $27 million renovation to the site.

She said the board was clear about the need to promote the jetty as a tourist attraction when she came into the role in 2015.

“We needed to make more money because then we could put more money into ongoing maintenance of the facility,” she said.

Repositioning promotion of the jetty, including by highlighting its proximity to marine wildlife, has helped bring about a significant recovery in the site’s commercial performance.

That was recognised last year when the jetty was awarded several major accolades, including the award for best attraction at the national Grey Nomad Awards and as a contributor to cultural heritage at the 2019 WA Heritage Awards.

While much of her strategy so far has focused on developing a sustainable financial model for the jetty, Ms Shreeve said she was content to attract visitors to the region regardless of their intention to spend at the jetty.

“We don’t mind who comes and who enjoys it, because in general, we just love it when people come down to Busselton,” she said.

“They spend money when they go to service stations, restaurants and fish and chip shops, and everyone benefits.”

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