Fremantle must move beyond America’s Cup ‘mythology’

February 13, 2014

A Murdoch University researcher says the City of Fremantle has to develop a more sophisticated approach to tourism policy and planning and move beyond its fixation with the 1987 America’s Cup.

Dr Sarah Veitch said the use of the America’s Cup event has become a justification for a wide range of initiatives – often conflicting – and reveals a lack of rigorous debate and examination of what tourism really means to the community and local business.

“In mediums such as media, marketing flyers and development proposals, stakeholders use the America’s
Cup to justify a wide range of positions and initiatives,” Dr Veitch said.

“Groups say ‘we need this project to revitalise the City, because nothing has happened to Fremantle since the America’s Cup’ or ‘doing this project will bring back the spirit of the America’s Cup’.

“At the same time, others are saying ‘the America’s Cup has made Fremantle a world destination and we have to do this or that to keep the party going’, which was the case with a recent sailing competition.

“The mythology has endured because it’s politically useful, but it is limiting.”

Dr Veitch has formulated nine recommendations for Fremantle, based on the need for a broad and robust approach to tourism policy and planning.

She said taking a more sophisticated approach to tourism would increase democratisation, reduce adversarial politics around development and increase accountability.

“Projects are often presented in terms of the tourism numbers they’ll bring – another boom time, like the America’s Cup – but there is generally little evidence to support claims about how many more visitors will visit or what tourists want from the City,” Dr Veitch said.

“Currently, tourism is generally treated as a singular activity. In reality, we need to recognise its complex nature. Tourism involves different and separate sets of visitors and activities, each with different requirements and consequences.”

Dr Veitch said keeping Fremantle’s sense of place ‘genuine’ and avoiding its commercialisation and commodification as a tourism product required more authentic engagement with the public.

“Participation by residents is often treated with patronisation and over-simplification in order to undermine and discredit. You hear terms like ‘anti-development’ or ‘anti-tourism’,” she said.

“We have to change the tone, and have to ensure that community engagement goes beyond consultation on already developed plans.”

‘Mythology as hallmark event legacy: the endurance of America’s Cup mythology in the City of Fremantle’ has been published in the Journal of Sport & Tourism.

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Media contact: Candice Barnes
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