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Western Australia’s Mid West may be known better because of its pink lakes and bright fields of yellow canola than its international sporting prowess, but one group is wanting to improve its reputation.
A not-for-profit organisation hopes to put the sparsely-populated region as a revered sports tourism destination for active, competitive and adventurous travellers from round the global world.
A group of high-profile sports like the Australian Country Cricket Champions and the Australian Wavesailing Nationals are among recent competitions that have injected millions in to the region’s coffers.
The Mid West Sports Federation (MWSF) located in Geraldton, 400 kilometres of Perth north, has collected and analysed data from those events, year and much more than 90 others held over the Mid West in the last.
The MWSF hopes the findings can help leverage more funding to attract bigger and better sports events from round the country and the planet.
Chairman Mike Bowley said sports tourism was shaping up as a promising industry for the Mid West, that is battling a stagnant economy and declining population.
“Our vision would be to create the Mid West as a premier destination for advanced sports,” he said.
“We’ve believed for some time that we have the ability to do better … we have many individuals who would like to do more, so we must provide them with the ammunition in order to build the sector make it possible for the attraction of national and international events.
“Sport and recreation is our culture … it binds the social fabric of our communities, and the opportunities for all of us to cultivate to attract such events to your region is fantastic.”
Sports tourism money spinner
Mr Bowley said the project’s data also showed Geraldton and surrounding towns were seeing significant economic and social advantages from large-scale sports.
The report, compiled by ACIL Allen, said events resulted in a lift in tourism spending and local jobs, with an increase of people residing in the spot longer.
“We’ve already seen our providers, the tourism industry, the accommodation sector, and a lot of cafes, clubs and pubs inside our region can get on board,” he said.
“These events develop a vibrancy inside our towns and inside our region, and several those who have never gone to the Mid West before learn precisely how good it really is.”
Renowned because of its wind, Geraldton and the encompassing region have grown to be popular for wind and water sports particularly.
The campaign by the MWSF coincides with the Australian Wavesailing Nationals held at Coronation Beach north of Geraldton this week.
The titles attracted a huge selection of competitors and visitors from over the nation, along with international visitors from as away as England far, Poland, Holland and denmark.
A wind lover’s playground
Windsurfing WA’s Maeli Cherel said she hoped the big event will be held in the Mid West each year and wants it to become leg of the international Professional Windsurfers Association (PWA) tour.
“We want to carry this annually in Geraldton as a result of consistency of the wind and because it’s among the best spots on the planet,” she said.
“I’ve travelled a lot to accomplish the tour aswell and there is no place that comes even close to here.
Ms Cherel said recent investment over the city had positioned it well to host more athletes and visitors.
“You can find consistent waves and weather all summer but [Coronation Beach] can be close enough to a city that has the infrastructure there to get people from around the globe,” she said.
“Geraldton has really grown during the last few years with regards to infrastructure and the beautification of it.”
The Federation’s sports tourism push also coincides with speculation about if the World Surf League’s Margaret River Pro — a leg of the planet Championship Tour — will proceed to Kalbarri, north of Geraldton, after 2019.
Helping homegrown athletes
Mr Bowley said the info collected through the project would also be utilized to greatly help local sporting groups and volunteers, who had campaigned for better facilities and championed home-grown talent long.
“We realize a large number of our sportspeople desire to be in a position to compete at an increased level,” he said.
“If we are able to attract that standard of competition to your region and also have people competing here that’s best for our communities and best for our sport and recreation sector.”
The plan is directed at athletes like 28-year-old local Jaeger Stone, who’s currently ranked number 4 on earth for windsurfing and competes all over the globe on the PWA Tour.
Mr Stone said the proceed to grow the region’s profile as a sports tourism destination was welcome among locals.
“I believe we’ve the potential to host world-class events and produce world champions aswell,” he said.
“We’ve great surfing in winter and great diving in winter and in summer it’s windy nearly every single day therefore i think it comes even close to another best places on the globe like Hawaii or the Canary Islands.
“There’s a lot more going on here for folks ahead stay for some time even though they would like to give it a try or explore the coastline, try different sports and also have fun just.”