The disastrous environmental damage caused by an influx of tourists to Uluru earlier this year won’t be repeated in Exmouth as thousands flock to view a solar eclipse, according to a WA tourism industry leader.
Exmouth is set to be the best viewing point in the world for a total solar eclipse in 2023, and Astrotourism WA head and founder Carol Redford said more than 10,000 people will visit the small town to catch a glimpse.
“The only place you can see it, apart from the ocean, is the part of the West Australian coast where Exmouth is,” she said.
“There’s a big logistical exercise … about how we manage the event … we’re estimating perhaps in the tens of thousands of people.”
Ms Redford said the town, which had a population of 2207, needed help from state and local governments to prepare for the waste and resource requirements the crowds would bring.
“Ablutions, portaloos, are going to be a real big consideration for the town and the area, and we’ve got to make sure it doesn’t run out of water,” she said.
Ms Redford said industry players and government bodies were starting to work together to ensure the safety of the local environment.
“What we’re doing with the different government departments at state level, and the local government, is trying to get a working group together … to protect Exmouth from being just trampled,” she said.
She maintained there was reason to be optimistic, and said there would be no repeat of events at Uluru where an influx of tourists hoping to climb the rock before it closed, brought waste and environmental damage with them to the area earlier this year.
“I’m very positive, I see this as a well organised, and well managed event.”
In a statement, Greens spokesperson for the environment Robin Chapple said tourism in the state would benefit from an environmentally friendly eclipse event.
“Any large events such as these must be managed properly by local authorities and event planners to ensure that the environment is kept intact … looking after the environment and encouraging tourism are not mutually exclusive, in fact they benefit each other to a large degree,” he said.
Mr Chapple said the state government had a role to play in planning ahead for the sudden rise in visitors to the region.
“From prior experience, we know that forward planning is absolutely necessary, and there may be scope for the State Government to work with local authorities to ensure that Exmouth is looked after in the process,” he said.
Ms Redford said a successful eclipse event would put WA astrotourism on the map, and attract regular new visitors to the state.
“The world’s media will be covering this story, and sending it out worldwide, so it’s a great opportunity for Western Australia to actually promote itself,” she said.
Mr Chapple stressed the importance of preserving Western Australia’s natural tourism hot spots.
“What events like these show is that there is an increasing appetite across Australia for genuine environmental experiences by tourists … we need to do everything possible to cherish what we have and protect it for future generations.”