While many grey nomads remain resentful of the less than enthusiastic welcome they were given by some mining towns during the boom times, there is some evidence that many are now prepared to ‘forgive and forget’.
Certainly, the downturn in the iron ore industry has left many communities in Western Australia’s Pilbara region’s more appreciative of the benefits that tourism can bring.
“There wasn’t a spot in the caravan park for the tourists to park their caravans because it was taken up by a construction worker,” Local member for the Pilbara, Brendon Grylls, told the ABC. “The perception of tourism in the Pilbara has taken a bit of a battering.”
He said that, during the mining boom, grey nomads in their caravans and motorhomes were driving between the Ningaloo Reef and Broome without stopping … but that is now changing.
“We now need to work hard to promote the spectacular coast,” said Mr Grylls. “The Dampier Archipelago, Karijini and Millstream are our well-known sites but increasingly also the events we hold in the Pilbara.”
Despite the challenges ahead both in terms of affordability and perception, Baz Harris from the from the Karratha Visitor Centre says ‘real strides’ are now being made in prioritising tourism.
“For our part of the Pilbara, tourism has been neglected for the last decade,” he told the ABC. “It’s a good five years behind, but it’s heading in the right direction.”
* Have you ‘bypassed’ the Pilbara in the past? Is it back on your ‘to visit’ list now?