COMPETITION in the local travel guide market will hot up with the release next month of a new publication aimed at the State’s growing backpacking industry.
Locally produced Go West Handbook – a handbook size publication first published in 2000 – will go into battle with the new Bakpak WA quarterly magazine, to be launched on November 3.
Forty thousand copies of the free Go West Handbook are printed twice yearly and distributed throughout hostels and other venues around the State, as well as in Darwin and Adelaide.
Bakpak WA, also free but in a slightly different format, describes itself as “offering no-bull advice on the most authentic backpacking adventures Western Australia has to offer”.
About 10,000 copies will be printed of each of the four issues produced each year.
While a range of publications aimed at backpackers can be found at hostels and wherever the travellers themselves like to relax, most are produced in the eastern States.
Both Go West Handbook and Bakpak WA are produced by Western Australians and are specifically focused on attractions in WA.
WAX – a 38 to 45-page tabloid colour newspaper published and distributed mainly in and around Perth – pioneered this segment of the local market, but after 15 years in business is understood to have recently disbanded its publishing operation, opting instead for a wholly online service.
After just more than three years of hard work, Go West is starting to fill the gap in what is considered a niche market, and is even starting to turn over a comfortable profit.
Some industry insiders are worried, however, that the WA market isn’t big enough to sustain two such publications.
Don Hyland, a long-time player in the local backpacking industry and also an advertiser in Go West, is one such doubter.
Mr Hyland said the market already was overcrowded, with much of the industry disappointed with taxpayer-funded schemes such as the one that established both Go West and Bakpak WA, seeding competing businesses into an overcrowded marketplace.
“We know of one at least one [three-year-old and viable] business in our industry recently forced to close when a similar, but ‘scheme funded’ enterprise set up across the road,” he told WA Business News.
Figures from the WA Tourism Commission, however, show the number of international visitors who stay at least one night in WA backpacker accommodation has more than doubled from 40,000 per year in 1989 to 84,000 last year.
And, in an even more encouraging sign, industry sources say the WATC is showing greater interest in backpackers – who inject, on average, $55 per day into the local economy – by setting up a number of initiatives to coordinate and promote the growing industry.
While Go West publisher Jess Comber is uncertain whether the market can sustain two publications, Bakpak WA publisher Hayley McKee is confident.
“The response so far I’ve had is amazing,” Ms McKee said.
“I really feel there is a gap in the market. When I made the decision to start up I didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes.
“I think both magazines will work really well together. We come out at different times of the season and I am really targeting the niche, niche market [solely backpackers].”
Despite that optimistic outlook the fact remains that WA attracts less than half the number of backpackers Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria receive each year. Surprisingly, too, the West falls behind South Australia and well behind the Northern Territory.
Ms Comber said while she was confident about the continued success of her business, she would be concerned for any new publications.
“I am not sure the industry can sustain two [publications],” she said.
“I know my advertisers are not looking forward to someone else asking for advertising.
“Though it may dilute my advertising market I am confident I will be able to survive because of my long-term establishment in the industry.”
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