A state government measure to boost tourism to the Kimberley with cheaper flights has led to a a 600% increase in bookings on Virgin airlines this week.
The ‘Kimberley Wanderer Pass’ provides $300 to West Australians who book a Virgin flight from Perth to Kununurra.
The Pass is allocated to tours or experiences and is redeemable through the Kununurra Visitor Centre.
Two days following WA’s initiative, the federal government spent $1.2 billion on a stimulus to support the domestic travel industry.
The general manager of the Kununurra Visitor Centre Vivienne McEvoy says the closed borders in Australia due to COVID-19 severely affected tourism in north WA.
“I am concerned about the whole tourism industry in the East Kimberley,” she says.
“We acknowledge the support that the state government has provided through Tourism WA and Virgin to put these vouchers in play for Virgin flights from Perth to Kununurra, to help combat any impact in the future, but also to assist on what we missed out on last year.”
WA’s Tourism Minister David Templeman says the Kimberley Wanderer Pass will give visitors more incentive to travel and explore the Kimberley region.
“Visitors can choose from an exciting range of participating tours and experiences, allowing them to get to know the region through the eyes of those who know it best,” he says.
Mr Templeman says the pass will support Kimberley businesses as they recover from the impact of COVID-19.
An employee at the Kimberley Café Kayla Isbisper says although businesses have been struggling in the past 12 months, she is unsure of how positive the influx of tourists to the region will be.
“As you can imagine with us being up here in Kununurra, tourism for us has been affected really badly,” she says.
“We do want tourists back, but it’s also about asking ‘what’s the current situation going on in this world at the moment?’”
The manager of the Kimberley Grande Resort Glen Luckhurst says he also stressed about the possible rush of incoming tourists.
“We’ve already been struggling for staff since the initial lockdown [last] March,” he says.
“Obviously with international borders being closed, up here we rely heavily on backpackers to come and work for the seasons. I’m not too sure how many of them are going to arrive up here this season.”
Mr Luckhurst says the resort has already reached 90-100% occupancy.
“We’ve already got major commitments with a lot of tour groups and people like that, but fingers crossed that we’re going to be able to get through it,” he says.
Would you book a flight up north if you were given $300 to spend on tours? Video: Olivia Declerck.