Margaret River Gourmet Escape set to end
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Western Australia's premier food and wine event, Margaret River Gourmet Escape, will be held in its current form for just one more year, with the state government planning a reconfigured event that includes the Swan Valley in 2019.
The government announced today it had renewed its contract with event owner IMG Culinary for 2018, but had decided to review its tourism investment.
Tourism Minister Paul Papalia said including the Swan Valley would allow the event to grow.
“With the current three-year agreement ending, the state government decided it was the right time to explore opportunities to grow efforts in food and wine event tourism and maximise outcomes for the state,” he said
“It gives us the chance to look at expanding and extending the festival to feature not only the South West but also the Swan Valley.
“The McGowan government understands the value of events in supporting the state’s tourism outcomes, but we need to ensure these events drive interstate and international visitation in order to fill our hotel rooms, grow the economy and create jobs.
“We also want a clear strategy for food and wine festivals that enhances our trade and agricultural export outcomes.”
But shadow tourism minister Libby Mettam said the reconfigured event would destroy the brand.
"I'm certainly not saying don't fund an event in the Swan Valley, but why destroy what has already been created in the South West," she said.
“This year’s event was a resounding success with more than 60 international chefs and food experts at 50 events and 25 event locations.
“These global food and wine personalities not only put the Margaret River region on the world stage, they also build capacity and knowledge in our hospitality sector.”
Ms Mettam said the decision could result in WA losing the event completely.
"Victorian tourism operators have been eyeing the event for some time for the Mornington Peninsula and we have just handed it to them on a platter," she said.
"This is an event our state cannot afford to lose to our eastern states competitors.
“Western Australia is a large state and needs a coordinated approach to tourism – not an incoherent plan that sees regions competing against each other.”
As part of the review there will be a stakeholder consultation followed by a request for proposal process.
The consultation process will help shape the final specifications for the new event.
A list of companies with a track record in culinary events will then be invited to submit proposals to run an annual international food and wine festival across the state’s two premier wine destinations in 2019 and beyond.
The successful proponent is expected to be announced in the first half of next year.
Regional Development Alannah MacTiernan said the government was hopeful of extending the festival over a longer period and across other food and wine destinations to attract higher interstate and international visitation.