Tourist numbers in the Pilbara have returned to normal this winter, despite Western Australia’s borders remaining closed.
- WA’s tourism industry is enjoying strong numbers this winter
- Families and groups with caravans and boats are dominating highways and campsites
Caravan WA says a “boom” is underway
Pilbara Tourism Association chairman Barry Harrison said 150-200 people were going through the Karratha Visitors Centre every day.
Qantas has resumed daily flights to Karratha and is in talks with the association to deliver cheaper flights with package deals to the Pilbara.
Karijini Eco Retreat and Mackerel Islands Resort are full as people visit from inside WA.
Drew Norrish, the chief executive for both businesses, said the staff had been through quarantine for COVID-19 and were back on site.
“There are early positive signs that WA people are willing to explore further and get up into the Pilbara and around to the Coral Coast and Ningaloo,” he said.
City of Karratha Mayor Peter Long said Exmouth was packed with people when he visited during the school holidays.
“It’s exploding here, it’s quite incredible and terrific to see,” he said.
“I’ve never seen the North West Coastal Highway so busy — there’s caravan after caravan coming up from Perth, it’s quite incredible.”
The City of Karratha has waived the 12.5 per cent booking fee for local tour operators and introduced a 20 per cent discount for city residents who spend their money on local tours.
New boat charters through the Karratha Visitors’ Centre are taking bookings to the Dampier Archipelago islands and the infrastructure on the iconic Sam’s Island (Tidepole Island) is being repaired after Cyclone Damien.
An Indigenous-run visitors centre is also being developed for the Murujuga National Park, where more than one million petroglyphs of ancient art can be found on the granophyre rocks of Deep Gorge and beyond.
Shire of Ashburton chief executive Kerry White said West Australians who have never been to the region are now coming to the Pilbara.
The Millstream and Karijini National Parks are both in the shire, along with Mackerel Islands and Onslow, where people are arriving daily with their boats and caravans.
Craig Kenyon, the chief executive of Caravan WA, said the state was “smashing it”.
“WA is performing better than all the other states,” he said.
“This would be largely tied to the fact that WA was already the largest intrastate market and given that we now have a physically captured market, combined with a significant increase in interest in caravan and camping, there is a new boom underway.”