Gourmet Escape reinvented | State government proposals underway

An independent panel will decide next month which events management company will run the reinvented Gourmet Escape from 2019.

The state government has shortlisted companies with a track record in culinary events to submit a proposal to run the food and wine event after Gourmet Escape’s contract came to an end.

Last year, the state government announced it would change the way the event was run from 2019 splitting events across the Swan Valley, Perth and Margaret River region.

It could result in IMG Culinary - the group responsible for Gourmet Escape - not running the international event.

IMG Culinary hold food events in 20 countries around the world, which its senior vice president Justin Clarke said enabled them to work with global talent and gave them direct access to world renowned chefs.

Tourism Minister Paul Papalia said by expanding WA’s annual food and wine festival to include Perth, the government aimed to strengthen the state’s position as an internationally recognised destination where you could savour gourmet produce, premium wines and boutique beverages.

“Culinary tourism plays a key role in boosting the state’s economy and is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the tourism industry worldwide,” he said

“WA’s high-quality food and beverage offering attracts around 400,000 dedicated gourmet travellers who enjoy extraordinary produce in stunningly beautiful locations as part of their trips.”

Vasse MP Libby Mettam said she hoped the changes to the event worked, but the government needed to detail the funding it intends committing to the whole event, and to the regions. 

“I would not like to see the McGowan Government dilute the focus and funding of regional tourism and the original Gourmet Escape event for this region, but instead, add to the original investment,” she said.

“I don’t want the regions to lose from this announcement. 

“A Rottnest seafood festival sounds fantastic but do we really want it to compete with Gourmet Escape?  Surely a Rottnest Seafood Festival deserves to be promoted as an event in its own right.”

A City of Busselton spokesperson said they were concerned that the state government review would result in the focus of the event being shifted from Busselton and Margaret River to Perth.

The spokesperson said the event as currently structured continued to grow in popularity and attracted many interstate and overseas tourists who also took time to visit other South West attractions. 

“The city will be working with the relevant agencies and providers to ensure the South West component maintained a high profile and continued to reflect the uniqueness of the region,” the spokesperson said.

“However, the state government has made it known that it would like to see part of the event being held in other locations inducing Perth which unless increased funding is allocated, can only result in reduced funding being made available to the South West region.”

Margaret River Busselton Tourism Association chief executive officer Claire Savage said they were looking forward to reviewing the outcomes of the proposal process and were hopeful increased benefits could be achieved across WA without diminishing the event’s impact on the region.

Ms Savage said IMG had delivered a successful event for more than six years, and were hopeful the state government’s review process would result in the ability to expand on this success.

She said Tourism WA’s Taste 2020 strategy highlighted that ‘food and wine festivals were the type of events most likely to encourage travel, providing an even greater incentive than sporting and music events’.

“They are a great way to showcase our region, attract media coverage, bring additional tourism income and attract visitors during off-peak and shoulder periods,” she said.