Cultural appeal pulls in tourists

Stephen Bevis Arts Editor
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Cultural appeal pulls in tourists

A report has highlighted the importance of cultural tourism, with more international visitors attending arts events than wineries, casinos or organised sports.

Only the beach and shopping outstripped culture in their appeal to foreign tourists, the Australia Council report said.

Nearly 40 per cent of visitors - or 2.4 million people - attended a museum, gallery or other arts activity in 2013-14, it said.

The Arts Nation report said tourist numbers had risen 19 per cent over the past four years, compared with 13 per cent for overseas tourists more broadly.

Tourism Council WA chief executive Evan Hall praised the appeal of the Perth International Arts Festival, Fringe World and Sculpture by the Sea. "The power for cultural events is in triggering the desire and the decision to travel to WA," Mr Hall said.

He urged the State Government to support more "destination" arts events, to promote the $1 billion Burswood stadium as an entertainment venue and to champion an indigenous cultural centre at Elizabeth Quay.

"If there is an area that WA should excel at it is indigenous cultural experiences," Mr Hall said. "Most international visitors to Australia go back disappointed with the level of exposure to indigenous culture."

The State Government has a target to double the value of tourism from $6 billion in 2010 to $12 billion in 2020.

Mr Hall said an indigenous cultural centre at Elizabeth Quay would be a tourism magnet. The Australia Council report said arts and culture contributed $50 billion to Australia's GDP.

Australia Council chief executive Tony Grybowski, in Perth for the release of the report, said it provided a fresh approach to understanding the public impact of the arts.

The Perth Festival closes this weekend. One of its major theatre productions, Black Diggers, opened at the Heath Ledger Theatre last night.

Actor Tibian Wyles said it had been an intense learning experience researching and portraying one of the more than 1000 Aboriginals who fought for Australia in World War I, despite not being citizens in their own country.