STATE opposition tourism spokeswoman Katie Hodson-Thomas sparked a fresh round of controversy about branding Western Australia last week when she suggested a change to the signage near the airport on Great Eastern Highway. Ms Hodson-Thomas reckons the current sign is “inadequate and does little to inspire visitors to our state”, and suggested the current ‘Perth: A city for people’ should make way for something like ‘Welcome to Perth: the gateway to Australia’s west coast’. Among those who support the current slogan are our lord mayor, Peter Nattrass, and the City of Perth. Who could forget Dr Nattrass’s objection to a crane that would occupy a seven metre by seven metre patch of Forest Place so that developers could overhaul the old Australia Post building? “We want to make this a city for people, not a city for cranes,” he said at the time. The developers were forced to go back to the drawing board to rework the renovation, resulting in yet another development delay for the people of Perth. Then delays become procrastination. Debate about developing the Swan River foreshore has been raging for years. And how much longer are we going to talk about where we should put a new sports stadium? If only Perth really was a city for the people; where our political leaders had the vision to create places and spaces that attracted its inhabitants and, in turn, tourists too. Ms Hodson-Thomas’ call for something more practical has merit, according to some in the tourism game. Tourism Council WA chief executive Ron Buckey says the sign is dated and needs replacing, perhaps with a big picture of King’s Park or something that shows off the city in which visitors have just landed. We can get a little hung up on brands and slogans, however. You only have to look to at the City of London’s recently unveiled 2012 Olympic logo to know that big bucks spent on developing monikers and accompanying slogans can buy you a whole lot of bad publicity. Mr Buckey reckons while a new sign for Perth has merit, we’d be better off focusing on something bigger –like improving the aesthetics and layout of the Great Eastern Highway. “It’s extremely dangerous and not just during peak times,” Mr Buckey says. Again, it’s a strategy that would appease the locals and, as a result, would more than likely create a more appealing welcome to our fantastic city.
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