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Kalgoorlie pushes its tourist cred

SOUTH Perth-based Kareelya Property Group is set to develop an $18 million self-contained hotel resort in Kalgoorlie.

According to the WA Tourism Commission’s Gold-fields/Esperance region tourism development manager, Tom Hopkins, construction of the 83-room resort is due to commence in February next year, with a completion date set for December 2002, in time for next Christmas.

The Kareelya Property Group also has developed, marketed and managed four other hospitality investment schemes, including the Broadwater Apartments in Como.

Although the Goldfields region has suffered as a result of the Ansett collapse and fallout from the September 11 terrorist attacks, Mr Hopkins said tourism in the region was quite buoyant.

“We had the problems with Ansett and we thought it would have a downturn effect on tourism to the region. But we’ve had an upturn in land-based tourism,” he said.

“Caravan park owners are reporting much higher than usual visitation rates (of caravans and self drive) for this time of the year.”

The Ansett failure forced many Perth residents visiting for business to drive to Kalgoorlie rather than fly, which has extended the number of hotel nights being spent by corporate clients in the town.

“The distances travelled require they stay for two nights. If you flew you could come in the morning and fly back in the evening,” Mr Hopkins said.

Coach service Gold Rush Tours is one example of a local company to lose money during the Ansett fiasco, with group tours cancelling because passengers from the eastern states never arrived.

While there’s usually a drop in tourist numbers to Kalgoorlie around the Christmas/New Year period, this year the numbers are up.

Mr Hopkins credits the unusual amount of tourist activity to the marketing under-taken by the Goldfields Tourism Association, the fall in the price of petrol and tourists’ acceptance of the GST.

Up to 60 per cent of visitors to the Goldfields originate from Perth, with only 15 per cent hailing from the eastern states and 5 per cent coming in from overseas.

Mr Hopkins said the Goldfields did not receive the amount of marketing support it should.

“I think we are a forgotten destination,” he said.

“Time has passed us by as far as (being) a popular destination is concerned, like the Kimberley and the Southern Regions.”

Mr Hopkins said that, while the region had changed enormously over the past 20 years, people’s perceptions had not.

“People see Kalgoorlie as an old mining town which has suffered from the effects of mining. Dusty, almost like a desert situation,” he said.

“People don’t perceive us as having excellent restaurants or architecture and lots of traditional heritage atmosphere.

“But really it is green with lots of foliage. People marvel at that because they don’t expect to see these things.

“People need to come here and see the differences.”

The town is spending $2 million on streetscape upgrades, as well as a tree and shrub replanting program currently under way.

The Goldfields/Esperance region attracts around 300,000 visitors per year, 50 per cent of whom drive to enjoy all that the area has to offer.

Although the $110 million spent in tourism in the region every year is insignificant compared with the amount of revenue generated by the mining industry, it is significant in terms of regional tourism expenditure.

The town has played host to an array of activities through 2001, including the annual Country Tourism Conference, the Goldfields Mining Expo and the opening of the Prospector and Miners Hall of Fame, an event which lured the Deputy Prime Minister.

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