Mundaring Chamber of Commerce’s response to Draft Perth Hills Marketing Plan 2020-2022

The Perth Hills Tourism Alliance (PHTA) is a collaboration between the five neighbouring Local Governments of City of Swan, Shire of Mundaring, City of Kalamunda, City of Armadale, and Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale which aims to grow awareness of the Perth Hills as a tourism destination, and drive effective tourism marketing.

PHTA has been working on the preparation of a Tourism Destination Marketing Strategy 2020-2022 which seeks to:

  • Create a fresh, unified Perth Hills brand.
  • Develop key messages and provides recommendations on consistent brand messaging for marketing, promotional activities, and communications of the Perth Hills region.
  • Provide greater understanding on how to develop the tourism potential within the region.
  • Reference opportunities available via the broader tourism industry objectives of Western Australia, Destination Perth, and each of the Local Government stakeholders.
  • Make recommendations on how to achieve a unified and effective approach to the future planning of promotion, advancement, and development of tourism through marketing and efficient visitor services.

Tourism businesses and stakeholders across the region have been asked to provide feedback on the strategy. You can vew the document here: Draft Perth Hills Tourism Marketing Strategy 2020-2022

The following comments have been made by members of the Chamber’s committee:

Francesca Flynn, Chamber Committe Member and Director of Evergreen Consultancy WA

“Overall, the document is a great step forward towards the region working together collectively and cooperatively on tourism strategy for the good of the entire Perth Hills region.

Introduction / This Document (p 2/18)

The document doesn’t make any reference to other policies and strategies that it should be aligned with or sit alongside. It should not be a standalone document and instead should fit in the context of other state strategy for this region and industry e.g.

  • The newly announces Hiking and Trails Strategy
  • Perth Hills Mountain Biking Strategy
  • Perth Hills Trails Master Plan
  • The upcoming Parks of the Darling Range Advisory Committee Plan

The Weaknesses of the Region (p 4/18) and Marketing Threats (p 5/18)

The weaknesses section is severely lacking and doesn’t include any of the key constraints which regularly limit or prevent tourism developments/experience (and wider economic growth) in the Perth Hills, which are:

  • bushfire risk management
  • water catchment land use and management (incl. priority protection areas)
  • traffic and transport considerations (incl. public transport and parking)
  • land ownership and land use zoning restrictions

These are the most significant factors which dictate recreational and leisure land-use in the Perth Hills, but they are not mentioned.

Leading on from this is the lack of cohesion from local government, state government departments and other major landowners (e.g. Water Corporation) concerning land use/management in the Hills. A wholistic picture is not presented and policies often contradict each other or work directly against other department objectives. For example, DWER’s default position is that there should be no more than 50-80 patrons per day at existing restaurant venues in the Hills and no new development whatsoever. This directly contradicts the State’s push to see the Perth Hills recognised as a key tourist precinct and is based on outdated policy (incl. LUMS 2010) that doesn’t consider new technology or scientific advances made by commercial organisations.

These conflicting viewpoints from the state government infiltrate down into local governments who are faced with a difficult position of making planning decisions based on conflicting state government policy. This is exacerbated by a lack of Councillor understanding on complicated scientific or technical issues and state government structure e.g. advisory agencies versus regulatory agencies. Some Councillors do not recognise or understand the role of local government in supporting a region’s economic development.

Finally, the report makes reference to “local residents do not necessarily recognise their region as a visitor destination” – I would say that a significant number of residents actively do not want the region to become a tourism precinct and instead want the hills to stay as they are. Having worked in tourism in this area for just a few years, I hear this viewpoint
regularly. Many local residents do not want the increased noise, traffic or visitors. Many are vocal in opposing large developments and very active in lobbying Councillors and local politicians. A lack of understanding of scientific concepts and economic viability of operating a tourism business exacerbates this issue. Many mistakenly believe that visitation levels are directly proportional to environmental degradation, whereas there is ample
evidence that it need not be so and can in fact be the other way around (i.e. tourism as a mechanism to protect and preserve heritage, environment and culture).

Other weaknesses include lack of mobile connectivity and a lack of medium scale accommodation. It is also worth noting that many of the small tourism operators in the Hills report feeling a disconnect with the wider tourism industry and do not see the value in joining tourism organisations. For example, many are not members of our RTO (Destination Perth) but instead opt to be a member of the local visitor centre as they feel there is more value in “supporting local”. Any Perth Hills marketing initiatives will need to take that into consideration so that the smaller local operators are not “left out” of major regional marketing opportunities.”

Patrick Bertola, Chamber President and owner of Lion Mill Vineyards

“One thing that appears to be missing is recognition that this strategy sits within the context of a raft of other policies/strategies:

  • The newly announces Hiking and Trails Strategy
  • Perth Hills Mountain Biking Strategy
  • Perth Hills Trails Master Plan

The Parks of the Darling Range Advisory Committee is about to work on a plan for the whole of the parks within the Darling Range area (check with Toni for details)

One of the biggest hurdles at the next level of government is the problem of dealing with a range of State instrumentalities. For instance, the majority of the Shire of Mundaring is Crown Land, of which a significant part lies within water catchment. Any official attempt to encourage low impact activities like cycling and hiking in that area would meet with resistance from Water Corporation under current Policy. Likewise, other potential visitor based activities or attractions might require negotiation or discussion with, or consideration by a number of such instrumentalities. It would be reasonable to propose that some sort of overarching  development body could facilitate overall economic development of the Hills region including tourism/visitation – A Hills Development Commission?  

Under “Weaknesses of the Region” reference is made to the limitations posed by the limited resources and time available given the nature of the majority of the operators in the region. The obvious corollary of that is that someone needs to step up in terms of funding and support (e.g. time and co-ordinated promotion). The State is such a source but has long indicated that it will only respond to an initiative such as a regional strategy as proposed by the PHTA. Thus, it is critical that members of the Alliance are committed to a collaborative approach where there is a genuine commitment to working together for the benefit of the region as a whole.

To the statement that local residents do not necessarily recognise their region as a visitor destination could be added the fact that there are a considerable number who do not wish it to become so. There is a mistaken belief that visitation is directly proportional to environmental degradation whereas there is ample evidence that it need not be so. The fate of the Lake Leschenaultia Master Plan speaks volumes about the desire to resist or limit visitations.

Strongly agree that TWA has not lifted its gaze beyond the Swan Valley or Margaret River. The same could be said of a succession of Tourism Ministers. It is difficult to know what they think of the region as a visitor destination because they say so little about it. We do, however, have a strong advocate in the Member for Kalamunda and the Member for Darling Range in her capacity as shadow spokesperson for tourism; however, it is not apparent how interested or supportive other MPs representing the Perth Hills area are.

The current crisis means that there is a renewed focus on intrastate tourism. However, the opportunity to capitalise on this will necessarily be limited by the time that hard borders (especially international) and restrictions on travel remain in place. Given the time that it has taken to arrive at the point where we have a draft marketing plan, how likely is it that the PHTA will have something in place to take advantage of this limited window of opportunity?

There is a need quickly to capture “minds and hearts” of our potential “flatlander” visitors.

Under marketing opportunities could be added the fact that proximity to the largest centre of local population could build upon that, the relatively low cost of experiences, their low impact, and the big return on investment that would accrue to the area.

Under “marketing threats” it is important to recognise that there is already considerable business buy in to the idea of a regional strategy. Indeed, these businesses recognise (and have long done so) that political support would only come from a co-ordinated and collaborative regional approach. It is also necessary to change Councils’ thinking where there is resistance to the idea that Councils have a role in development of the local economies.

Under “brand concepts and USPs” it might be useful to emphasise the following as well:

  • overall accessibility;
  •  variety within reach;
  •  value outcomes (in terms of potential experiences) for time inputs; and,
  • relative value for cost outlays.

And, just make sure that the ‘hero’ focus in not heavily weighted in favour of the nature brand.

Overall, this Draft Plan marks a significant step forward in developing  coherent and cohesive strategies to promote aspects of local economic activity. It needs to be supported by individual plans at a LGA level and this requires some reset of thinking by some Councils.”

Have your say

Have your say on the strategy by completing the following survey by Monday 27 July 2020, or by emailing Kirk Kitchin, PHTA Chair on Kirk Kitchin: mrls@mundaring.wa.gov.au .

Complete survey here: https://www.research.net/r/V29TNJ2

feedback, public comment, Tourism

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