12/11/2009 - 00:00

Pressure on in north-west

12/11/2009 - 00:00

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HAVING maintained strong results despite the economic downturn, accommodation providers in the state’s north-west face a fresh problem, with a potential oversupply of new hotels and increased room availability.

Pressure on in north-west

HAVING maintained strong results despite the economic downturn, accommodation providers in the state’s north-west face a fresh problem, with a potential oversupply of new hotels and increased room availability.

While the South West attracts a lot of media attention domestically and internationally – and was recently named one of the world’s top 10 regions in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel publication – the north-west is certainly no poor cousin in terms of its popular appeal.

However, a recent WA Business News boardroom forum involving the state’s tourism industry leaders suggested this could be negatively affected by an increasing number of accommodation facilities coming online.

Tourism WA chairperson and head of Lamont’s winery and restaurant, Kate Lamont, said the economic downturn had highlighted the genuine seasonality issues in WA.

“We’ve noticed in the South West that it has been a pretty bleak winter while on the other hand we’ve noticed a very strong season in the Kimberley and north-west,” Ms Lamont said.

“So the visitor numbers are holding where the sun is shining.”

Former state minister for tourism, and until recently chairman of Australia’s North West, Ian Laurance, agreed visitation numbers to the region were encouraging.

“Australia’s North West thought our members would be going through a tough time thanks to the global financial crisis, and (we) thought it would be hit harder than areas closer to the metropolitan cities, but that hasn’t been the case,” Mr Laurance said.

“The film ‘Australia’ certainly did very well for the Kimberley, and the east Kimberley in particular, so we’ve done better than we anticipated.”

But Mr Laurance believes the numerous five-star resorts and nature-based accommodation facilities entering the market of late are key concerns for the region’s future in terms of oversupply.

As was the state government’s new Naturebank program, he said, which would release land for low-impact accommodation, mostly within national parks and reserves in the north-west, starting with a site at Kurrajong within the Purnululu National Park.

“One of the difficulties for the north-west is there’s a lot of new product that’s come onto the market,” Mr Laurance said.

“A brand new five-star resort in Broome, the Oaks, has just opened.

“Eco Beach (Resort) has recently come along and they’ll be looking in the market, certainly for the season next year.

“So we’ve added several hundred new rooms in Broome just this year, and hopefully the strength of this year will carry through but we’ve certainly had a lot of rooms built.”

The influx of room numbers isn’t slowing with one eco retreat currently upgrading its facilities.

The Goombaragin Eco Retreat, a two-hour drive north of Broome on the Dampier Peninsula at Pender Bay, has almost completed a redevelopment of its eco tents and chalets.

Goombaragin Eco Retreat owner Kathleen Cox is adding two new self-contained eco tents and a self-contained eco chalet, essentially tripling what is currently available, which she expects will be in hot demand.

 

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