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Fly-in, fly-out work boom in Western Australia

Mining boom killing Western Australia's leisure tourism

Nov 29, 2011

The mining boom in Western Australia is proving to be a double-edged sword for tourism, with leisure visitors competing against the fly-in, fly-out workforce for limited accommodation and flights, according to the Tourism Council of WA.

Aviation, food services and accommodation providers have benefited from the boom, but the whole industry is competing against the mining sector for a limited supply of labour in an increasingly patchwork economy, a Tourism Research Australia industry snapshot has found.

Both major resources states, WA and Queensland, have bucked a national trend by experiencing growth in business-visitor nights in accommodation over the past 10 years as a result of the growth of the FIFO workforce.

Advertisement: Story continues below Tourism Council of WA chief executive Evan Hall said the growth in the industry for those sectors directly connected with FIFO was very positive but that there simply were not enough plane tickets and hotel rooms to go around - and leisure tourists and operators were losing out.

The prices for accommodation and flights were also steadily increasing with the competition for limited supply, Mr Hall said.

"The crucial problem is, the boom is creating a lot of demand for aviation services and accommodation and staff to deliver those, and we don't have enough of those where they’re needed, which is in those resource towns and in Perth," Mr Hall said.

"We’re not adding in extra visitors to the state we’re just replacing one type of visitor with another because we don’t have the room for both.

"It’s crowding out domestic and international leisure visitors."

Mr Hall said the town of Broome, one of WA tourism’s most popular destinations, could become a prime example of leisure tourism falling victim to FIFO if the controversial proposed gas operation at James Price Point moved into production.

"Aviation and accommodation in the town of Broome will benefit, but it’s probably the worst possible news if you’re doing the camel tour along Cable Beach," he said.

"This is not something the business tourist is going to use but they’re will be no room for the leisure tourist because there are inadequate flight services or hotel stock to cater for both."

Resources and Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson said long term economic strength required a diversified economy with the tourism industry as a major player.

"There is no doubt that many leisure-tourism businesses are struggling from the effects of a strong Australian dollar and staff shortages, especially in mining regions," Mr Ferguson said in a statement.

"But as this report shows, there are still plenty of opportunities for growth and the overall outlook remains positive."

Mr Hall said the problem had been worsening since 2007 and that major infrastructure investments in aviation and accommodation, as well as a change in immigration laws around hospitality and tourism workers, were needed to combat the trend.

A new $120 million domestic terminal for the Perth Airport is in the works to service the growing FIFO market.

A more comprehensive report on how the mining boom is impacting on the tourism industry is expected early next year.

Mining boom killing Western Australia's leisure tourism
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