Tech drive in South West

25/05/2004 - 22:00

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THE State’s South West is embracing technology as a means to promote business and tourism in the region.

THE State’s South West is embracing technology as a means to promote business and tourism in the region.

While innovative online portals are making the region more accessible, albeit virtually, the State Government-funded Connect South West program is boosting IT training and support in the region.

A huge redevelopment of the South West online portal (mysouthwest.com) is planned for launch in November this year, with the successful tenderer to be announced at the end of this month.

WA Business News understands the value of the tender to be about $200,000.

It is also understood that the redevelopment will incorporate e-commerce, bookings and back-end functionality to the site, which will facilitate tourism and trade in the region.

While remaining tight lipped about the project, Connect South West eBusiness manager Wendy Perdon said the web portal would be a “mammoth leap forward in inroads to community owned and managed technology”.

“It will be a groundbreaking leader of new web technology in Australia,” she said.

Ms Perdon said all seven tenderers for the project were WA-based and had a presence in the South West – a requirement of the tender.

Meanwhile, Margaret River-based Queensberry IT continues to enjoy success with its BookEasy system – an online reservation system developed in collaboration with the Margaret River Visitors Centre.

Launched two years ago as part of the www.margaretriver.com site, the system is now also implemented on the www.fremantlewa.com.au and www.exmouthwa.com.au, with the Exmouth site going live last month.

Queensberry IT recently received a $50,000 Commonwealth Government Commercialising Emerging Technologies (COMET) grant that will assist the company in rolling out the BookEasy system to other tourism regions across the country and internationally.

Upon implementation on www.margaretriver.com, the BookEasy system allowed reservations to be made online 24 hours a day from anywhere in the world and resulted in an immediate 10 per cent increase in overall bookings, with a revenue increase of more than 30 per cent.

An offline reservation function of the system allows local tourism providers to update their own data in the system and then to ‘synchronise’ with the main system, ensuring the integrity of the data.

Queensberry IT joint director Cinde Fisher confirmed that the company was one of the tenderers on the www.mysouthwest.com project.

“If we don’t win the whole tender, we’d like to win the booking part as that is where the future of our business is,” Ms Fisher said

She said Queensberry IT has more than doubled the number of staff in the past year to accommodate an increasing workload.

The State Government initially allocated $2.2 million to the Connect South West program, which was launched in March 2003 and is administered through the South West Development Commission.

It’s hoped the program will be rolled-out through other regional areas of the State.

Connect South West runs training and education programs for businesses and has been leading the push to have ADSL access made available in the region.

Connect South West visited various locations across the South West to collect registrations of interest for ADSL, which it then submitted to Telstra.

Ms Perdon said the response to the ADSL project had been strong, with 765 expressions of interest from South West businesses. These have now been submitted to Telstra.

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