Don’t just focus on China tourists: hotel manager

Francesca MannGeraldton Guardian
The Gerald Apartment Hotel General Manager Grant Pitman.
Camera IconThe Gerald Apartment Hotel General Manager Grant Pitman. Credit: Francesca Mann, The Geraldton Guardian

A Geraldton businessman is encouraging tourism operators to start focusing on other international visitors instead of relying on Chinese tourists.

Since 2014 the Coral Coast’s clear blue skies and unique landscapes have been a major drawcard for Chinese visitors, with many heading straight to Geraldton due to its proximity to the famed pink lake in Port Gregory, Hutt lagoon.

Chinese tourists are also the State’s biggest spenders, pouring $273 million into the economy from March 2018 to March 2019, according to Tourism Western Australia.

But the Gerald Apartment Hotel General Manager Grant Pitman said focusing just on China would be detrimental to Geraldton.

“It is dangerous as a tourism destination to rely totally on China,” he said.

“One of the biggest mistakes made in Queensland was ... a lot of businesses adapted their hotels and businesses for the Japanese market, but when the boom stopped that market disappeared overnight.

“As a city we’ve got to make sure we don’t do that and leave ourselves open for opportunities so if one inbound sector dies, we can pick it up in another area.

“It is no doubt an absolute mistake to hang our hat on the Chinese.”

In April Mr Pitman, a member of Australia’s Coral Coast Board and the Tourism Geraldton Committee, had a joint stall at the Australian Tourism Exchange, held in Perth, with Dongara business Illegal Tender Rum Co.

While Mr Pitman noted it wasn’t a cheap investment, he said it was worth it to showcase not just his business but the wider region.

During the five-day event he said tourism representatives from Japan, Canada, Italy, England and Scandinavia expressed an interest in Geraldton and the Coral Coast.

“A lot of people from those countries have a lot more money to spend than China,” he said.

“In my view we need to be not just Chinese ready, but ... be ready for any tourist that comes to town and recognise they’ve got a disposable income.”

Mr Pitman said Geraldton’s tourism industry should also focus on attracting West Australian’s to the region.

“A number of people go down south for Christmas, but Geraldton is a far better alternative,” he said.

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