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Tourism bounces back

THE terrorist attacks on New York and the grounding of Ansett Australia have provided an unexpected bonus for some tourism operators in the State's South West.

Despite considerable cancellations, particularly in the conference industry, many businesses have reported strong bookings over the past month as local people and interstate tourists look to the safety of the domestic market when planning their holidays.

Cape Lodge proprietor Jo Tait claims the South West isn?t as dependent on US tourists as destinations such as Sydney, Melbourne and the Gold Coast.

"After September 11 we had a couple of days that were a bit strange, and with Ansett we lost $20,000 worth of business, but we picked that up through local and domestic eastern states traffic,? Ms Tait said.

Concern about international security also has driven business from resorts in Asia back into the local market.

"We've picked up a lot of honeymoon business from people who were planning to go to Bali and Fiji," Ms Tait said.

"I think in WA, Bali is a destination we compete with, and people are just not going to Indonesia and Bali at the moment.

"Cape Lodge is one of the most expensive accommodation options and we are doing really well because people thinking of going overseas have budgeted to go overseas and are happy to pay a higher rate."

Malaysian company Starcoast Corporation recently bought Cape Lodge for more than $7 million, however the new owners won?t take over the South West icon until the new year.

But not all the tourism operators are finding business easier post September 11 and the Ansett crisis.

Assured Hospitality marketing manager John Lynch said book-ings for the new development Margarets Forest Sanctuary were well down, although the established Margarets Beach Resort has experienced good occupancy rates.

"In the smaller, newer ones, occupancy is well down across the region. I know this because we share information with other operators," Mr Lynch said.

However, while the September 11 attacks have affected some current bookings, Mr Lynch claims this has almost totally tailed off, with coming months looking strong.

"Forward bookings look good and, if anything, for Christmas and January we'll be full. Even forward bookings for things like the wine festival are sitting at 70-80 per cent," he said.

And the downturn in the Broome market has delivered bonus weekend bookings for the South West, with both tourists and locals looking to alternative weekend destinations that don't rely on air travel.

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