Business visitor potential untapped

Alicia PereraPilbara News
PDC chairman Brendan Hammond gives the opening address at the Destination Pilbara tourism conference.
Camera IconPDC chairman Brendan Hammond gives the opening address at the Destination Pilbara tourism conference. Credit: Pilbara News, Alicia Perera

High-end business people and drive market travellers who make up the majority of the Pilbara’s annual visitors present a “remarkable” opportunity as target markets for tourism in the region, according to a development chief.

Speaking at the Destination Pilbara Tourism Conference last week, new Pilbara Development Commission chairman Brendan Hammond said the region had a big visitor market compared with others in WA, but 83 per cent of those were short-term business visitors whose potential was going untapped.

Drawing parallels with the growth of tourism in his home country of Namibia, Mr Hammond said the Pilbara industry could develop by targeting affluent visitors who wanted to have an authentic experience of Aboriginal culture and liked the exclusivity of a remote location — an approach he said favoured small businesses.

“The international demand for authentic cultural experiences is bottomless,” he said. “No matter how many businesses we form successfully here in the Pilbara, we wouldn’t even begin to touch what the market has to offer.”

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Tourism WA destination development executive director Derryn Bedford said the drive market, which accounted for 12 per cent of overall Pilbara visitors and 70 per cent of those coming for leisure, was also “low-hanging fruit” for local tourism development.

“There are 100,000 domestic leisure visitors coming through the region (each year), and possibly many of them are driving quite fast through the Pilbara,” – they’re coming from the Kimberley to the Gascoyne or the Gascoyne to the Kimberley,” she said.

“We need to ask what is it we can do to convince them to stay longer and spend more while they’re coming through the region.”

Both speakers also stressed that stunning natural scenery “is not enough” for tourists when up against worldwide competition and quality indigenous cultural knowledge had to be added to make local experiences distinctive.

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