Kimberley tourism operators see bumper dry season

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Kimberley tourism operators see bumper dry season

Kimberley tourism operators say they are experiencing a bumper dry season, defying expectations that Western Australia's border opening would result in travellers heading overseas.

Border lock downs in WA lasted for most of 2021, with Premier Mark McGowan deciding to lift restrictions on interstate and international travellers in March.

Tourism operators have recorded their highest visitor numbers in recent years in Broome, Derby, Fitzroy Crossing and Kununurra during lockdown.

When WA's border was reopened, they braced for pain.

Willare Roadhouse Manager Neralie Middleton said after years of uncertainty, many operators were unsure what 2022's dry season would bring.

She said that her business, about 50 kilometres outside of Derby, had enjoyed a 35 per cent increase in customs since last year.

It's wonderful, it's absolutely wonderful and not only good for the area, from a business point of view, it's just good, said Ms Middleton.

Operators say it is difficult to pin down a reason for the surge in numbers, but some believe last year's surge in caravan sales contributed to the resilience of the Kimberley tourism industry.

Many tourists are embarking on self drive tours, leading to an increase in national park visitation numbers around the Kimberley.

Between 2021 and 2022, Mitchell River and Purnululu in East Kimberley almost doubled their visitors' visits, with Yawuru Birragun recording an extra 40,000 visitors, according to the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions.

Parks and Wildlife Ranger Kathryn Dyball takes travellers on tours around the Danggu Geikie Gorge National Park, which is jointly managed by Bunuba traditional owners.

She said that it's a pretty good season, there's a lot of tourists coming through.

It's quite similar to last year's numbers, but we've found that this year is longer.

Last year it got quiet around August but at the moment we're still pretty booked out on the morning and afternoon tours for this whole next month, so it's still pumping. Australia's North West Tourism chief executive Natasha Mahar said there had been a concentrated effort in the Kimberley to keep the industry afloat over the past two years.

She said the most recent dry season had been a welcome surprise.

We were expecting visitor numbers to drop off, but we thought everyone would head off overseas, Ms Mahar said.

We're pleased that people want to really explore their state more, and hats off to our operators who have had a tough year with the staffing situation - they're a resilient bunch up here. Tourism WA's latest campaign Walking On A Dream aims to double pre-COVID tourism business in WA by 2032, according to Tourism Minister Roger Cook.

After a tough two years, Ms Mahar said the campaign would help the Kimberley regain its footing.

She said all of those Kimberley dreaming experiences are highlighting — walking through Purnululu in the Bungle Bungle Ranges and hearing an Aboriginal elder singing in the Cathedral Gorge, going to the Staircase to the Moon and listening to that didgeridoo.

These are some of the things that give you that spine tingling, dreamlike experience in the region.