International tourism academics and industry notables from Canada, China, Germany, Italy and Monaco were recently hosted on a Peel familiarisation trip hosted by MAPTO and the Peel Development Commission. Showing off the region’s stunning aquatic features, unique natural environment and key tourism offerings, the guests were hugely impressed with the visit, which was organised off the back of Curtin University’s Tourism Research Cluster 2019 Symposium.

Particularly enjoying the Wild Seafood Experience with Mandurah Cruises – an experience the likes of which none of them had participated in anywhere else in the world – the visitors were stunned by Mandurah’s waterways and range of water experiences on offer. Relishing the abundant land, bird and sea life, and of course the local dolphins joining in right on cue, our guests were also enthralled by Peel’s indigenous culture. Noongar elder, George Walley, of Mandjoogoordap Dreaming, explained the history and cultural significance of the Thrombolites (Woggaal’s Noorook) and topped the tour off by playing the didgeridoo.

Dr Michael Vlogger from Curtin University said, “It was a spectacular day and our international visitors from China, Canada, Germany and Italy were definitely impressed by what Mandurah has on offer. It was a world-class fusion of nature-based experiences and cultural insights into Aboriginal Australia as well as gorgeous food. We could argue it was a combination of some of the peak experiences Western Australia has on offer. I think the possibility to catch their own crayfish and eat them fresh on board really stands out, in particular with Asian markets.”

The visit sparked some great discussion on the strengths and challenges of regional tourism, and gave the guests the opportunity to offer their expert perspectives on Mandurah and Peel. Curtin University’s Tourism Research Cluster ‘From Under-Tourism to Just-Right-Tourism’ Symposium aimed to contrast (perceived) ‘over-tourism’ in some important source markets for Western Australia, with the, at times, voiced assumption of ‘under-tourism’ in WA. It brought together global and national tourism expertise to stimulate debate and exchange between academia, industry and government.

The Symposium presented Chinese and European experiences on overcrowded attraction points, which highlighted WA’s opportunity to capitalise on how open spaces and reduced crowds contribute to a different tourist experience. This experience provided context for the focus on WA’s ‘under-tourism’ and potential future development pathways for state and regional tourism.

The fact that Western Australia has been only partially affected by some of the most powerful tourism waves presents an opportunity to develop tourism for the greatest benefit of both residents and businesses. However, achieving this whilst safeguarding the natural environment and unique culture that comprises the very foundation and multi-faceted beauty of our region is of utmost importance.

The Symposium was attended by approximately 100 industry representatives such as tourism operators, researchers and government stakeholders including Tourism WA, Regional Development Commissions, Mandurah and Peel Tourism Organisation (MAPTO) and the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions.

Gavin Treasure, CEO, Mid West Development Commission, provided the WA regional perspective with a presentation on the tourism projects under development in the Mid West including the Kalbarri Skywalk, Abrolhos Islands and Geotourism. The Peel Development Commission’s Principal Business Development Officer, Wendy Muir, was also in attendance and said, “The broad range of speakers brought diverse insights from around the globe, providing invaluable acumen into how WA can optimise its tourism offerings to different global markets”.