Niche tourism operators say millennials searching for a unique holiday experience have filled a gap in the West Australian market left by cashed-up overseas visitors.
- Millennials are choosing to spend big on cultural tours in WA in lieu of overseas trips
- Margaret River tour guide Sean Blocksidge said his usual customers were older people
- Now, younger travellers are helping to keep his business afloat
In a normal year, Perth accountant Bridget Purcell would have spent her holidays in Europe, the United States or Vietnam.
But with international borders closed and interstate travel options dwindling by the day, Ms Purcell and her partner Mitch decided to stay in WA.
They forked out for an off-the-beaten-track adventure tour around Margaret River, in WA’s south-west.
It promised an in-depth look at local knowledge and once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
“Not being able to travel, we’ve kind of gone, ‘Well, [Australia] also has a history, I’d actually like to learn something about that’,” she said.
Ms Purcell said her friends were having similar experiences in the state’s north, in places like Exmouth and Karijini.
A blessing for a declining niche
Margaret River tour operator Sean Blocksidge said he seldom saw millennials booking his tours in the past — most of his clients were older people from interstate and overseas.
Pre-COVID he was turning away up to 20 or 30 people per day, but when the pandemic hit, he thought it could be the end of his business.
“The markets that I’d done so well in, every single one of those had disappeared.”
But over the past 12 months, a wave of young people turning up for intimate wine, four-wheel driving and canoeing encounters has helped keep his business ticking over.
“The market I was never ever successful in, the twenty-somethings, the thirty-somethings … they’re just coming down now,” he said.
Mr Blocksidge said while this new market had helped to keep him afloat, many tour operators were still struggling financially without international or interstate visitors.
Young clients key to future
Margaret River Busselton Tourism Association CEO Sharna Kearney said with uncertain times ahead, young travellers could be key to keeping the cultural and adventure industry from disaster.
“The fact that we have millennials coming down, experiencing the region in a different way, really enjoying their time here and then sharing that with their friends, means that we’re setting ourselves up for that future visitation,” she said.