Talking Tourism with MAPTO’s CEO

The following articles are part of Mandurah Mail‘s regular Local Leader Opinion Piece column.

Tempting Tourists to Peel

Opinion piece by MAPTO A/CEO Anita Kane, published in the Mandurah Mail on

Have you ever read a travel article that’s made you long to visit a destination? One where it seems like the writer has discovered one of the world’s best holiday spots and tantalises you with everything it has to offer from great places to stay, delicious restaurants, unforgettable adventures and sweeping landscapes? Chances are that article was the result of what the tourism industry calls a familiarisation, or famil for short.

Part of our role here at MAPTO is to attract travel writers, conference organisers, and travel agents and wholesalers to experience Mandurah and the Peel Region. We work with a number of partners, including tour operators, hotels, the City of Mandurah and Peel Development Commission, to give them a personally designed insight into what potential visitors can expect.

Just last year, more than 25 Mandurah and Peel Region travel articles directly related to a famil were published around Australia and across the world, reaching a total audience of 15 million. We also work with bloggers and influencers, and target specialist publications such as golfing magazines.  Recently we organised a famil for online Family Travel Magazine. The writer stayed at Dolphin Quay Marina, ate at Oceanic Bar and Grill, visited the Winter Wonderland event and took part in some family-friendly tours.

Earlier this week we co-hosted the PR team from Air Asia who were visiting locations for an upcoming inflight magazine focus on WA, arranged by Destination Perth. With near perfect weather conditions, we spent a wonderful day on the water enjoying some of the aquatic experiences on offer. We finished off the day enjoying an iconic Mandurah pastime – crabbing for our native blue manna crabs.  As a result of the trip, Mandurah will be part of a six-page feature in a forthcoming edition of the Air Asia inflight magazine.  Similarly, we hosted a Malaysian Airlines TV film crew late last year for inflight TV channel exposure.

We work with Tourism WA to promote the destination to international and domestic travel trade, and the Perth Convention Bureau (PCB) to showcase the region as an ideal location for conventions, business meetings and incentive groups.

Next month, the region will be brimming with Australian and international travel trade. More than 2000 delegates are expected in Perth for Australian Tourism Exchange, Australia’s largest tourism exhibition, and we are working hard to plan unforgettable famils in Mandurah and the Peel Region for many of them so when they go back home, they can sell us to the world.


Events are critical to Mandurah’s tourism plan

Opinion piece by MAPTO A/CEO Anita Kane, published in the Mandurah Mail on 18 February 2019.

When thinking about tourism marketing, advertisements, beautiful pictures on Instagram and even billboards are some of the obvious things that spring to mind. Something that isn’t quite so obvious, yet equally import, is events.

Part of our role here at Mandurah and Peel Tourism Organisation (MAPTO) is to work with event holders and local shires to attract events to our region to help build a strong, thriving tourism industry. Events give people a time-driven reason to visit; that is, they have to come when the event is on instead of just having us on their ‘maybe one day I’ll get there’ list. Events scheduled in off-peak season can also help keep visitor numbers steady all year round, helping sustain the many businesses that rely on the tourist trade.

Participation events, such as the Grapest 5k Run at Drakesbrook, the APES Games in Mandurah and the recently announced Adventurethon scheduled for May in Dwellingup, attract huge numbers of competitors, support crew and family and friends.

Unique regional events including City of Mandurah’s Wearable Arts Mandurah and Crab Fest generate a strong community sense of pride and engagement.  From a tourism perspective these events showcase the best of the region and are important in raising the profile of our destination through the media coverage they generate.

The benefits of attracting visitors through events don’t end when everyone goes home. Hopefully they’ve had a fantastic time, seen some beautiful and unique things and fallen a little in love with us. That means they’re likely to come back, and tell people they know about us too.

Getting back to our more traditional marketing methods, I’m pleased to say that our 2019 Mandurah and the Peel Region Visitor Guide is now available on line and in hard copy.

A new addition to the guide this year is our collaboration with the local community through nine ‘How the Locals Like It’ articles peppered throughout the guide. They are the thoughts, reflections, tips and hints from people such as dolphin researcher Krista Nicholson, Jodie Pantaleo from Pinjarra Bakery, Mayor Rhys Williams and artist Emma Blyth, told in their own words.

Although each contributor is vastly different, what shines through is their love of the region and everything it has to offer, something I’m sure we can all relate to.

Mandurah’s Holiday Vibe Hits a High

Opinion piece by MAPTO A/CEO Anita Kane, published in the Mandurah Mail on 17 January 2019

The Christmas New Year period was a good one for the local tourism industry and I congratulate everyone for providing such amazing hospitality and experiences.

We had another bumper Christmas lights’ season with all our water-based tour operators booked out night after night as people cruised the canals to see the beautiful displays. I was thrilled to be a judge and I’m in awe of the effort our canals residents go to, providing so much Christmas cheer.

Hotels and other accommodation providers welcomed many guests and I must make special mention of Mandurah Boat and Bike Hire, who opened on Christmas Day, which turned out to be a very savvy business decision. Thanks to the staff who gave up their Christmas Day to take the high volume of bookings.

Having worked in the travel industry for more than 20 years, this may seem like an unusual thing for me to say, but sometimes a holiday at home is the best type of holiday.

Driving and walking around Mandurah this summer, it’s been wonderful to see locals and visitors alike take advantage of our ideal holiday town, enjoying the numerous activities it has to offer.

There’s still plenty of sunshine to come to try something new or rediscover a favourite activity. Before the school holidays come to an end, check out Just for Fun Aqua Park, a great way to have fun and cool off in the estuary, or head inland to Trees Adventure at Lane Poole in Dwellingup for WA’s first treetop and zipline aerial challenge.

Water is, of course, one of our biggest visitor drawcards and this is the best time of year to experience it. Fishing, surfing, swimming, boating – they’re all on our doorstep and they’re all free.

It’s great to see some new experiences in Mandurah. Welcome to the Pirate Ship which recently launched in Mandurah. It’s great to see them get off to a busy start and wonderful to see so many excited children in full pirate regalia on the foreshore.

Another new addition was Skyline Hydrobikes, which recently hit town for a short trial visit.   Essentially, they’re bicycles that go on water and they’re a lot of fun! They will be back in April so if you missed out this time, keep an eye out.

Whatever you’re up to this summer, I hope you get some down time to explore your own backyard as a great start to a happy and healthy new year.


MAPTO Chief Moving On

Opinion piece by MAPTO CEO Karen Priest, published in the Mandurah Mail on 20 November 2018.

Christmas is generally a time for reflection and that’s exactly where I find myself as a hectic yet successful 2018 draws to a close. Not only because it’s the end of the year but because, after three years, I am leaving MAPTO to pursue new career challenges.

I have very much enjoyed my time at the helm and congratulate the region’s tourism industry for the growth and maturity I’ve seen during my time as CEO.

Latest visitor statistics from Tourism Research Australia show the number of overseas visitors to Mandurah increased by 14 and a half per cent in 2017/18, and they are staying for longer holidays than previously. On the domestic front, the number of day trippers to the region also increased in 2017/18, by over 500,000 to 2.8 million.

The success can be attributed to a number of factors, not least of which is an increase in the number of quality tourism experiences on offer. One of the things I am most proud of in my time as CEO is MAPTO’s facilitation of the Tourism Boost program which saw nine local tourism businesses become part of the Tourism Champions; improving their marketing and online booking capability and developing to become export ready.

In particular, experiences that are helping to attract more visitors include the Wild Seafood Experience offered by Mandurah Cruises, and new and developing experiences from ADAMS Pinnacle Tours, Eco BBQ Boats, Mandjoogoordap Dreaming, the Pirate Ship and Westside Tours.

We have worked hard to build effective relationships with influential stakeholders and international travel agents and wholesalers to market these changes and have given the region more exposure than ever before in interstate and international media, and through national distribution channels such as Helloworld.

The MAPTO team and local tourism operators continue to promote the region, working with major travel agents in key tourism markets including the UK, Singapore, China, Indonesia, Hong Kong and New Zealand, and a focus on grants bids for event funding has ensured there’s always something new and exciting happening in our region.

Our recent, wide-reaching consumer survey has given us insights into what potential visitors want from us, and shown us where their knowledge gaps are. These results will continue to inform future marketing campaigns. Although I am off to pursue a new career direction, I will remain on the board of Tourism WA and look forward to seeing first hand the even greater things I am certain are to come for tourism in Mandurah and the Peel Region.


Mandurah on the MAPT-TO

Opinion piece by MAPTO CEO Karen Priest, published in the Mandurah Mail on 15 November 2018.

If you’ve been driving around Mandurah and surrounds recently, you may have seen Mandurah’s own Christina Morrissey and a television crew from Channel 9’s Destination WA filming some of our key tourism attractions.

MAPTO contracted the show to produce four stories, featuring ‘the new Mandurah’, a day trip itinerary, food and beverage experiences, and our unique wetlands. As part of the deal, we have the rights to use the footage for ongoing marketing.

These Destination WA segments are part of a broader update of our digital assets library. Recent research showed locals and potential visitors alike don’t know a lot about what Mandurah and the broader region has to offer outside of water-based activities. As the saying goes, a picture tells a thousand words and this project will help us show how attractive and diverse Mandurah is.

By June next year, we will have an updated library of high quality still digital images and video and drone footage which can also be used to show Mandurah and surrounds is a great place to live, work and invest as well as visit.

We have recently received some encouraging tourism results. More than 2.8 million people chose Mandurah and the Peel Region as a day trip destination in 2017/18, half a million more than the year before. We also saw a big increase in the number of nights international visitors stayed in our region over the same period – 85,000 more nights than the year before at 578,248 nights in total.

These are positive signs that the tourism sector in Mandurah and the wider region is on the up, but there’s still work to do. One of the things I love about this industry is that everyone can make a difference, right down to every community member who, simply by being friendly and offering a smile, becomes a tourism ambassador.

I’m certain our digital assets library will prove to be a welcome addition to our marketing toolkit and I want to acknowledge that it has been made possible by a Royalties for Regions grant through the Peel Development Commission, and the support of the City of Mandurah, Shire of Murray, Shire of Waroona, Shire of Boddington and Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale.

We live and work in such a beautiful, unique and inspiring part of Western Australia and I’m so pleased we will finally be able to show it off to the rest of the world to its true potential.


Competing in an increasingly crowded tourism market

Opinion piece by MAPTO CEO Karen Priest, published in the Mandurah Mail on 8 October 2018.

In 2017, Mandurah was named WA’s Top Tourism Town and received the highest number of day trips in the state.

Whilst this is great news and the region has the potential to attract so many more visitors,  we are competing in an increasingly crowded tourism market.

It’s true we have stunning beaches and waterways, wonderful natural assets, a growing list of quality accommodation, tour and hospitality providers, world class shopping and golf courses. However, if we take our (understandably) proud and parochial goggles off, it’s easy to see that countless other destinations can say the same.

That’s why Mandurah and Peel Tourism Organisation (MAPTO) recently commissioned a far-reaching consumer research project to look at just what potential visitors think of Mandurah and the Peel Region, and to hone in on the unique assets that can be used to promote it. This is the first time in six years such research has been carried out.

One of the results that really stood out for me was that potential visitors and people who live here really don’t know enough about us. On the plus side, the research showed that when they do know how diverse the area, they are much more likely to visit here, or recommend it to family and friends. That’s why we will be working with key stakeholders on an advocacy program to improve the knowledge of locals and get them talking about how proud they are to live here and to help promote all the amazing things there are to see and do.

Our biggest tourism market continues to be the Perth metropolitan region. The research showed our two biggest assets when attracting these visitors are our proximity to Perth and the diversity of attractions.

We will be using all of this knowledge in upcoming marketing campaigns including a greater focus on information and logistics for visitors such as promoting options for accommodation and attractions, generating more suggested itineraries and boosting the region’s social media presence.

I look forward to sharing more information about these activities as they progress, and working with the local community and businesses in the region to grow our tourism industry.


Mandurah and Peel region’s tourism industry is growing

Opinion piece by MAPTO CEO Karen Priest, published in the Mandurah Mail on 4 September 2018

Tourism has been a major part of Mandurah’s identity for Western Australians for more than a century. Increasingly though, we are attracting more visitors from key international markets like the UK and, in particular, South East Asia and China.

Research tells us these visitors value natural, uncrowded beauty and wildlife encounters. To support these assets, we also need to have a number of export ready tourism products to round out the experience and make the stay memorable and enjoyable.

Mandurah and Peel Tourism Organisation (MAPTO) works hard to support the development of tourism product and it is pleasing to see the introduction of high-quality ventures such as the Wild Seafood Experience from Mandurah Cruises and the full day tour by ADAMS Pinnacles Tours to name just two.

The more there is to do, the longer people will stay which is great for business. Latest data shows a jump in the number of nights Asian visitors are spending in the region, up by more than 30,000 last year to nearly 276,000 nights. Friends and family coming to visit the high UK population we have in the Peel Region are staying longer too, increasing by more than 100,000 in the last two years.

In just the last two months alone, MAPTO has partnered with the Perth Convention Bureau and others to host a number of influential travel bloggers, media, agents and airline executives from China, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand to showcase the region.

To give just one example of how this activity pays dividends, a major Indonesian travel wholesaler we invited to visit has now added Mandurah to its itineraries, featuring Eco BBQ Boats and the thrombolites. Through this relationship, MAPTO has been invited to Indonesia later this month, where I will train 175 travel agents in how to attract their clients to Mandurah and the Peel Region.

We have introduced a Mandarin language page on our website and take part in a number of travel trade shows in Australia and overseas. Often, we work together with industry at these shows and I’m pleased that Mandurah Cruises and Westside Tours will be joining MAPTO at the Tourism WA Greater China Travel Mission in October.

A strong tourism sector has flow-on effects for the whole community. It means more jobs and a healthier local economy, not just for the tourism industry but for other services visitors use, which in turn benefits us all.