Albany’s unrealised potential as a ”significant tourism demand driver” is a key feature of a new planning document released by Australia’s South West, which identifies the city’s need for more destination marketing support. Australia’s South West — the region’s peak tourism organisation — released a framework for stakeholder consultation last month as a crucial step in its process of developing its inaugural tourism destination management plan. ASW sought feedback from key stakeholders throughout August based on the 36-page document, which provided a “succinct summary of the key strategies” proposed for the region’s new tourism plan. The next step in the process will be the production of action plans for each of ASW’s four sub-regions — Bunbury-Geographe, the Margaret River region, Southern Forest and Valleys, and the Great Southern. Regional tourism development strategies for the Great Southern and South West will also be developed. The document repeatedly referenced Albany’s potential as a tourism driver, stating there is “growing demand for Albany as a market-ready, nationally significant inbound destination” which should “now be prioritised along with an immediate focus on strengthening and developing bookable product, additional new accommodation and consolidated destination marketing”. “Albany is well positioned to become a significant tourism demand driver particularly for arts, culture and heritage, but requires focused product development, access, accommodation and destination marketing resources,” it states. Among Albany’s strength, the documents lists an “existing critical mass of quality and diverse visitor attractions, products, experiences and infrastructure across all product pillars”. The document also highlights Albany’s “growing accommodation offer” and its “nationally regarded” arts, culture and heritage assets, including the National Anzac Centre. “(It) is scheduled to host a significant Bicentenary celebration in 2026 which will be a major State tourism driver,” the document states. However, another key point stressed in the document is that the Great Southern region faces a challenge because of its “lack of clear regional identity”. Until July last year Albany, Denmark and Mt Barker had been jointly marketed by Amazing South Coast Tourism, which also operated the Denmark and Mt Barker visitor centres. The destination marketing organisation was primarily supported through $1 million funding from the State Government between July 2018 and July 2021, but ceased operation after being unable to secure ongoing funding. “The idea was right, the execution was disappointing and disjointed,” ASCT treasurer and founding board member Peter Snow told the Advertiser in August last year. In the 36-page planning document, the three other sub-region’s which fall within ASW’s jurisdiction each have a primary brand name distinct from ASW. They also each have an identified consumer proposition. Visitors are told to “find” Bunbury-Geographe; they are told to “come for the trees, stay for the experience, taste the difference” in “a world away from the everyday” in the Southern Forests and Valleys; and they are told to expect “generous nature” in the Margaret River region. The Great Southern is described in the document as “invested, authentic, captivating, surprising, enriching, contemplative and balanced”, but it does not have a primary brand and its consumer proposition is listed as “unclear.” Priorities listed for the sub-region include establishing a Great Southern brand, developing a cruise line strategy, tourism training for secondary students, and capitalising on the upcoming Albany bicentenary in 2026. The importance of Aboriginal cultural tourism to the region is highlighted with the planned Kairli Cultural and Language Centre singled out as a priority infrastructure project. Other projects on the priority infrastructure list are Great Southern Regional Trails and Mounts masterplans, eco-accommodation in Porongurup, and an accommodation offering in Torndirrup National Park between Bald Head and Sandpatch. The development of a master plan for Albany Regional Airport is also listed as a priority. “Increase Albany Airport to explore interstate and short-haul international passenger and freight routes,” the document states. The final tourism destination marketing plan is planned to guide decision-making, investment and capability development for ASW, and its sub-regions, for the next decade.