ROTTNEST Island is one of my favourite places. I like it in the summer and the winter. I’ve escaped there as a kid, a young adult, on my honeymoon, and with my family. I’ve taken overseas guests there and watched their excitement at the marine life at dusk. I’ve been on a mate’s boat as a whale has circled around us for ages. I’ve explored most of the island’s natural and historical offerings. I’ve been there on post-season sports club celebrations and I’ve joined the crowd there for a beer after my team swam across from Cottesloe. In many ways I feel I’ve grown up with the place. So I’m glad to see the place is changing, just as we all are. Last year, we had more than a week there, at Longreach, in one of the refurbished chalets. I have to say, the changes, while mostly cosmetic, take Rotto from the 1960s to the modern age. The refurbishments are simple, but practical. They suited me and my family. But I also understand there is a lot more to do. In my view, the hotel is dreadful and the management of the two bars on the island has a lot to be desired. On my last visit it was clear they were not operations driven by owners or lessees who wanted to offer the customer a great experience, something that lets the island down – big time. This is amazing, given the iconic status of Rottnest and the captive audiences these establishments have. I’ve long been a fan of putting something upmarket on the island, too. If the current bars and cafes have pressure from the premium end we may yet see improvement. In terms of accommodation, it makes sense as well. Not only do many people demand that level of accommodation, they also need to be able to book something from overseas, as and when they need it. An independent hotel operator would offer that service. I think this is all about allowing the island to move with the times. When I was a kid, it was pinball and Drumsticks, but these days I’m the first to admit that I’ll succumb to a decent cup of coffee and pay over the odds for a small bottle of beer. It’s called choice, and any place that represents the tourism destination for all of Western Australia, ought to have all the choices – not just the ones people liked in 1973. All this needs to be done in a way that doesn’t alter the great qualities of the island or change things too quickly in the man-made component. As a postscript to this, I might also add that I really do question the price of transport to the island. From what I understand, a big landing fee is charged to help pay for the management of the place. In my view, that makes day trips relatively expensive. Are day trippers the ones who use the infrastructure, or should those who stay for longer pay more of the share?
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