Tourism coordinators have seen a spike in local visitors to the South West region since the Wander Out Yonder campaign began, but it hasn’t come without its faults.
Sharna Kearney is the joint chief executive of Margaret River Busselton Tourism Association and says not all aspects of tourism have benefitted in equal ways from the campaign.
“There’s a number of tourism businesses that have not seen the uplift of the campaign, such as paid attractions and nature-based tourist experiences,” she says.
“I think that’s largely a result of the fact that West Australians treat the Margaret River region as an extension of their own backyard, so they don’t feel like they need guided expertise when they’re visiting the region.”
Ms Kearney says hospitality has been the most profitable sector in tourism.
“Wine and food have always been a drive of visitation to the region for all markets, particularly for the Perth market,” she says.
Ms Kearney says these businesses have operated with less staff than usual due to the lack of backpackers, and the result is a sense of fatigue in some local employees.
“Fatigue largely comes from the intensity of the visitation. It’s all concentrated on weekends and holiday periods,” she says.
“People have accepted they have to work a little harder than they normally would to make money but that doesn’t mean they don’t want visitors to come.”
Ms Kearney says if more people visited the South West region mid-week, as opposed to weekends, it would be more sustainable for the workers as it would provide an even spread of business.
Jodie Moyes is the owner of holiday home rental agency Private Properties WA, and she says her booking revenue has increased by 40 percent this past year.
“The past summer just gone was incredibly busy, we have never been busier,” Ms Moyes says.
“There are concerns around the burnout of our staff, but we are grateful we have local staff who live here and can help all year round.”
Ms Moyes says since the reopening of the intrastate borders, holiday destinations such as Dunsborough and Margaret River haven’t had a break.
Kristen McCleary is the manager of Clancy’s Fish Pub in Dunsborough and says the summer presented particular issues with attracting staff.
“This summer we were extremely short staffed because no one could come live down south, but the income was good and it was sustainable,” she says.
Ms McCleary says the business was operating with a team of 16-20 when it would usually have a team of 36 and, as a result, had to change operating hours.
“For the 10 years that Clancy’s has been in Dunsborough we’ve been a seven day service pub, but we can’t staff the pub in that way so now we are only open five days a week,” she says.
Ms McCleary says this is not due to a lack of interest in people wanting to come down south and work, it is due to the lack of housing.
“We’ve acquired a house through one of our staff members leaving, we’ve taken that on as Dunsborough Hospitality Services, so we have a three-bedroom house and I filled that in a week with three new chefs,” she says.
The Wander Out Yonder campaign has proven to be successful for business in the South West and Jodie Moyes says this looks like continuing into the colder months.
Sharna Kearney says operators want business to continue at a profitable rate.
“Yes, we’re exhausted and have been working really hard but we appreciate that that’s a part of the challenge that COVID has presented and still want visitors to come to the region,” she says.