A new report has revealed that tourism spending could increase by up to $43 million in the Fitzroy Valley if steps to protect the region’s outstanding natural and cultural values are taken.
The report, Assessing tourism potentials in the Fitzroy Valley commissioned by Environs Kimberley and written by Curtin University’s Tourism Research Cluster, found that expanding parts of the Fitzroy River National Park in collaboration with Traditional Owners would conserve the biological diversity, cultural richness, and the values of the Martuwarra Fitzroy River, while increasing economic development, improving domestic visitation, and creating jobs.
The study found that an additional 160 full time tourism jobs would be created if the Fitzroy Valley was declared a National Park, while visitation was expected to grow by 9 per cent.
A cruise on the Fitzroy’s waters or a bushwalk along its tree-lined banks will reveal an abundance of unique fish and birdlife. Photo: Ruchira Somaweera
The report also considered the impact of tourism potential if the Kimberley was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which was likely to have greater potential for international markets.
An online survey of 2976 potential visitors was included as part of the report, with participants highlighting that the striking landscapes, rich biodiversity, geographical significance, and particularly the cultural diversity and Aboriginal traditions, were the key attractors to visit the Fitzroy Valley.
The report provides recommendations for the pathway to best harness the benefits of tourism development in the Fitzroy Valley, including protecting the unique natural, cultural, and spiritual landscape that hinges upon a functioning Martuwarra Fitzroy River catchment.
Report Lead Author Associate Professor Michael Volgger, Co-Director of Curtin University’s Tourism Research Cluster, said the survey showed a strong appetite for tourism development in the Fitzroy Valley from local residents.
“Overall, the report clearly highlights that the Fitzroy Valley can make a substantial contribution to ensuring the unique Kimberley region is able to achieve its full tourism potential,” Associate Professor Volgger said.
“In particular, the survey respondents called for Traditional Owners to be able to take the lead in the tourism development process by providing business training and individualised mentoring to Indigenous tourism operations, as well as expanding the amount of quality accommodation available for tourists in the region.”
The report discovered that over 43 per cent of people rated being able to enjoy intact nature and landscapes as the highest importance to visiting the Fitzroy Valley, while 73 per cent declared the presence of Aboriginal experiences would increase their interest in visiting.
Environs Kimberley Director Martin Pritchard said the results showed that there was potential for economic growth and job creation in the Fitzroy Valley that protected the environment, supported Traditional Owners aspirations, and did not risk the health of the Martuwarra Fitzroy River.
“The Fitzroy Valley is an exceptional tourism destination and what this report shows is that keeping the landscape and river intact will attract a lot more people and lead to a significant increase in jobs and support an industry that locals are keen to be part of,” he said.
“This is the first major tourism report to outline the opportunities and challenges of tourism in the Fitzroy Valley that has engaged with the local community. It provides a roadmap for government and businesses to support and invest in a sustainable industry that complements the protection of the Martuwarra Fitzroy River.”
Banner image above: Fitzroy Bridge connects to Fitzroy Crossing, the central hub of the Fitzroy region. Photo: Sean Scott