City Focus: Perth

By William Smith

Business Chief takes a look at the burgeoning tourism industry serving to supplement the wealth Perth has derived from Western Australia’s resources.

Perth first achieved city status in 1856, and rose precipitously thanks to the late 19th century Westen Australian gold rushes. With a population of 2.06mn people in 2018, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the capital of Western Australia is the country’s fourth largest city. Dominant in the state, it represents 79.4% of Western Australia’s total population. According to SGS Economic & Planning, the city’s GDP was AU$150.3bn in 2017-18, comprising 8.3% of national GDP and 58.4% of Western Australia’s.

While that success has been unequivocally built on the back of the mining and resources industries, modern Perth has more to offer, including a burgeoning tourism industry built off of the city’s isolation from Australia’s other major cities. Indeed, the nearest ‘big city’ is Adelaide, some 1,300 miles away. In a country as large as Australia, travelling domestically can be just as exotic as a foreign trip.

Consequently, Perth Airport serves as a gateway to Western Australia for both citizens and those from foreign countries. This is reflected in the airport’s make up, with two international and four domestic terminals. In FY18, the airport said that a total of 13.7mn passengers passed through the airport, making it Australia’s fourth busiest. Of those, 9.3mn were domestic. The airport itself is also a major employer, providing 17,000 jobs to the local area, with the airport estimating that it contributed AU$3.66bn to the Western Australian economy.


Headquartered in the Perth suburb of Henderson, international ship building firm Austal builds vessels for both commercial and defence purposes. Over its 30 year history, the company says it has built over 300 ships, with its Perth operation specifically building defence vessels such as patrol boats and transport ships. Austal also has side businesses in maintenance and ship control systems including its MARINELINK series of control and management systems.


Previously one of Australia’s ‘Big Four’ internet service providers (ISPs) alongside Telstra, Optus and TPG Capital, iiNet was acquired by the latter company in 2015. Despite this, the company still operates under its own name as a subsidiary. Employing over 2,500 people, iiNet is headquartered in the suburb of Subiaco. Its offerings range from fibre to mobile networks, and it is a provider of access to the National Broadband Network – the government run internet infrastructure project.




Seven West Media

One of Australia’s largest media companies, Seven West Media was formed from the amalgamation of a number of different media properties, all of which it owns. Beginning with The West Australian tabloid, a fixture since 1833, the group also own magazine publisher Pacific Magazines. The jewel in the crown is its namesake Seven Network, one of Australia’s principal television channels, and offerer of such programmes as the soap opera Home and Away and game show Big Brother, as well as covering the Olympics.

With Perth Airport reporting a 1.2% yearly increase in domestic passengers, it’s worth reflecting on what is driving visitors to the state. One of the most idiosyncratic attractions is Rottnest Island (from the Dutch for ‘rat’s nest’), accessible by ferry from the city. Despite its unattractive name, the island is a haven for nature, particularly the rare quokka marsupial. Owing to its lack of fear for humans, the quokka has become an important piece of publicity for the city’s tourism industry, and sparking a trend for so called quokka selfies. Rottnest also boasts a number of pristine beaches, unspoilt by the pollution of cars, which aren’t allowed on the island. These factors combined to draw in 769,000 visitors to the island in 2018, a year-on-year increase of 15%.

Upcoming events in the city include the 4th International Conference on Energy and Environmental Science (ICEES), taking place between 8 and 10 January and focusing on such topics as renewables, biofuels and water treatment. Also occurring, from 28 to 31 January at the Pan Pacific Perth hotel, is the 4th Women in Construction, Infrastructure & Engineering Leadership Summit, dedicated to increasing the proportion of women in leadership roles inside the respective industries. Despite its geographical isolation, Perth has undoubtedly capitalised upon its position as a gateway to Western Australia. While the state’s mineral wealth remains an important part of the mix, the city has also spread its wings to incorporate other, service-driven industries, future-proofing its position as Western Australia’s prime destination.

For more information on business topics in Australia and New Zealand, please take a look at the latest edition of Business Chief ANZ.

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