PREMIER Colin Barnett has claimed the Swan Valley is suffering an identity crisis, labelling the area as “a bit of a mess” at the Swan Chamber of Commerce’s tourism forum at Caversham’s Sandalford Wines on Thursday.
Hosting the “Stay and play in Swan” event which focused on the Swan Valley’s share of the tourism market, Mr Barnett, who is also the Tourism Minister, said the iconic region had to focus on developing its own brand.
“WA has an incredible natural advantage,” he said.
“We are on the same time zone as four major Asian cities, which are booming in population and booming economically, meaning the travel market in Asia is rapidly growing.”
Latest statistics show that 88 per cent of the 3.1 million visitors to the Swan Valley last year were local, meaning only 12 per cent were international tourists.
“Margaret River is known internationally for its wines,” Mr Barnett said.
“Broome is known for Cable Beach. While the Swan Valley is in Perth, where visitors fly into to reach these other destinations, it is not well known as a wine region.”
The Premier’s comments came after international wine communicator and judge Lim Hwee Peng said at the Swan Valley Wine Show last week that the area had an identity problem .
East Metropolitan Region MLC Alyssa Hayden, who also shares the tourism portfolio, backed up Mr Barnett’s comments.
“The Swan Valley is 180 years old,” Ms Hayden said.
“Yet it is the Margaret River region that’s well known.
“We need to let the world know that we are open for business and we are here.
“We can achieve this by raising the profile of Perth as a destination and selling the whole region.”
Ms Hayden suggested tours that show- case the whole region.
“The Margaret River region isn’t just Margaret River. It’s Busselton, Dunsborough and Augusta too,” she said.
“The Swan Valley needs to do that.”
“Tour operators could arrange packages that include a pick up at Fremantle port for visitors arriving by ship, then take them to the wildlife parks, wine and beer tasting, chocolate tasting; give them a sample of everything.”
Mr Barnett also suggested utilising the Swan River for transport, following the lead of cities like Sydney and Brisbane.
“Since the opening of Elizabeth Quay, ferry patronage between there and South Perth has gone up four fold.
“We are looking at a possibility of ferries operating from Bayswater and Guildford.
“There are some exciting times ahead for the area.”
A panel discussion on how the Swan Valley could improve was led by MC and former journalist Andrea Burns, and included Alyssa Hayden, Mandoon Estate manager Travers O’Rafferty, Showcase Swan Valley treasurer Sarah Howlett, Black Swan Winery and Restaurant owner Robyn Meloury and City of Swan Stakeholder Relations executive manager Kym Leahy.
Mr Rafferty suggested that the local attitude towards tourism needed to change.
“The Chinese, for example, don’t want the same as domestic tourists,” he said.
“We need multiple offerings for different markets.
“I don’t think we are very good at tourist relations – we need to educate about cultural differences and be open-minded.
“We still have a long way to go.”