Although the Hannover Messe is one of the largest trade fairs in the world, there was no WA stand. There was no promotion of the tremendous value proposition of WA. The complete lack of knowledge about Western Australia at a European level was astounding. Everyone knows WA has great beaches and dangerous animals but little idea about resources or mining. Comments about WA’s space industry just drew blank looks.
Perhaps the best example of the ignorance of WA is the following anecdote. Sustainability and renewable energy are so important in Europe and we were frequently asked about our energy sources. One question received was “Can you put solar farms in WA, is there enough sun?”
It was clear that there should be greater emphasis on renewable energy in WA, especially if Europeans want to pay for it. As WA is an export-focused region, greater international recognition of what is in WA, in terms of facilities and opportunities, would likely be of benefit. For too long WA has relied on other countries or states to market WA products and this has had a substantial cost to the economic development of the State. The Hannover Messe and similar fairs in Asia and the Americas can only be positive opportunities to build the profile of local companies.
If WA won’t invest in promoting WA, how can we expect anyone else to invest here?
One area may be to focus on agricultural exports. Walking through Dubai airport it seems that it would be a great location to open a WA store for WA regional produce as well as for tourism and business. Open 24 hours per day, Dubai airport is a major world hub with over 90.2 million passengers forecast (in 2018) from 75 international airlines and servicing 240 international destinations.
Rather than replicating what is on offer at Perth International Terminal, a WA Dubai store could potentially focus on products that people can take with them to their next destination. Bunbury port and the Busselton airport are ideally suited to supporting this growth in international trade. Perhaps brand it around Bunbury or Manjimup which will continue develop over time as world leading agricultural centres for quality and freshness. Or potentially develop a new brand representing all of regional WA?
Successfully building the WA brand needs to be a collaborative effort between government and industry. Engage with experts in this area who have the people, systems, processes and reputation. Suggestions may be to work with The Bunbury Farmers Market or The Boatshed – Cottesloe. Perhaps the State government could underwrite the project, at least for an initial period, holding a 49% stake in the venture so there is a return to the State but derisking the project. The producers benefit from increased sales volumes which is where their profit is.
The argument for Dubai is that it’s a world trading hub, especially for people outside of Asia who would not have seen WA produce before. The whole concept demands fresh, clean and sustainable produce with luxury brand quality, which is what WA is. Daily cargo freight of WA produce could be sent and as volumes grow potentially use this as way to develop Busselton airport.
An initiative such as this would require a proper business case with people who are working and are successful in this industry. Don’t use consultants or department people who have no skin the game. The aim is to share the risks and rewards with experts in the field and to avoid departmental people who have no successful experience in these fields. Perhaps focus on developing Bunbury and Busselton as major international agricultural and food export hubs and destinations.