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Fire-affected communities in the Peel and South West are the first participants in a State Government pilot program supporting regional visitor centres and their business growth.

Through development workshops and one-on-one mentoring, visitor centres in Harvey, Waroona, Dwellingup, Mandurah and Boddington are taking a fresh look at their operations as tourists return following January’s bushfires.

The trial project is coordinated by Tourism WA and made possible by Royalties for Regions funding. 

It is part of the three-year Regional Visitor Centre Sustainability Network Grant Program, which recognises the vital role of visitor centres in boosting regional tourism and employment, and the need for these centres to remain relevant and adaptable.

Tourism WA CEO Stephanie Buckland said participants in the pilot mentoring program gained valuable skills through a series of group workshops plus personal on-site consultations with business experts.

“This program empowers regional visitor centre staff to combine their expert local knowledge with tailored advice on issues such as merchandising, customer expectations and sales,” Ms Buckland said.

“After the devastating fires, the role of visitor centres in growing tourism is more important than ever in the Peel region and the shires of Waroona and Harvey. 

“Research shows that people tend to spend more time and money in a place when they use visitor centres, which are also important regional community hubs. 

“Tourism is a $4 billion industry for regional WA. Delivering a high-quality experience for visitors encourages longer stays and return trips, with huge social and economic benefits for the community.”

Department of Regional Development Director General Ralph Addis said investment in the visitor centres would improve visitor information delivery in Western Australia, with an emphasis on empowering local communities.

”Tourism development is critical to our regional economy and the Royalties for Regions investment will help support the delivery of significant economic and social benefits to local communities,” Mr Addis said.

“I look forward to seeing visitor centres continuing to showcase the best of our regions.”

Waroona Visitor Centre Manager Tracy Goldsworthy said the community had been impacted by fires two years in a row, including a downturn in visitor numbers and expenditure. 

“The centre is important to both visitors and locals – many of those affected by the fires have come in to talk, and visitors seeking information also love the opportunity to view and buy local art and craft, which fosters the confidence and pride of local artisans and craftspeople,” Ms Goldsworthy said. 

“This program has helped us look at our gallery stock and tourism product with fresh eyes through very supportive and enthusiastic mentoring. We’ve implemented the changes and this is already helping to counteract the downturn.”

Briony Fay from Mandurah Visitor Centre said her team was excited to be part of the pilot project. 

“The program has assisted us in identifying new retail and booking opportunities, and gives our team tools to enhance our ‘help, not sell’ approach to sales,” Ms Fay said. 

“The merchandising and sales tips will assist us to grow our sales to maximise our financial sustainability, all the while allowing us to focus on what make us unique – amazing visitor services and insider regional knowledge.”

The pilot program will also be offered to visitor centres in the Avon Valley, Dongara-Port Denison, Geraldton, Northampton and Kalbarri over the next two months.

Contact Tourism WA's media team for more information.

Last Reviewed: 2016-11-07