Wendy Mann standing at the front of a light aircraft with a colleague
Case study /
Unlocking economic opportunity

Wendy: tourism

Image: 
Nathan Fulton/DFAT
GERALDTON, AUSTRALIA

Wendy Mann is Chief Pilot and Managing Director of Geraldton Air Charter, and she’s sharing the spectacular landscapes of Western Australia with thousands of tourists from China.

Wendy and her husband started with a business selling farm machinery and vehicles. They received a plane as part payment for two tractors they were selling. ‘We suddenly ended up with a plane and no one to fly it’, Wendy says. She learnt to fly, got hooked and trained commercially. She has now clocked over 10,000 hours in the air.

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Wendy Mann seated on step of a light aircracft

Wendy Mann. Image credit: Linda Roche/DFAT

Wendy’s company, Geraldton Air Charter, conducts tours in the Mid West and Coral Coast regions of Western Australia. It has grown from a company with just the one plane and one pilot in 1997, to now operating 11 aircraft and employing nine pilots.

Wendy and her team have seen an enormous increase in tourist numbers from China. She gained China Ready Accreditation for her company through a program introduced by the Tourism Council WA and has since attended four China trade missions organized through Tourism WA. With support from her Chinese Marketing Officer, Jacinta, Wendy also markets the company through Chinese social media including WeChat and Weibo and through a Chinese language website. ‘In 2014, we had 87 tourists from China, and bookings so far this year are 1,500. It’s just been phenomenal’, Wendy says.

They like to go to the Pink Lake. It’s a status symbol I think in China now, to have seen a pink lake, either our Pink Lake or the one in Esperance.

The Government’s skilled migration program brings direct benefits to businesses like Wendy’s. Jacinta relocated to Australia as a temporary skilled migrant and Wendy says, ‘she is really responsible for the customers we are getting now, and for all the people that are actually coming to Geraldton. They may not fly, but she’s really responsible for all those tourists that are coming and staying overnight, and buying our seafood, and staying in hotels and motels or Airbnbs…She is the making of our business at the moment’.

International tourists, attracted by Australia’s natural beauty and world-class produce, bring obvious benefits for small and medium businesses like Wendy’s, contributing to the local economy and supporting jobs. The Government is committed to doubling overnight visitor expenditure by 2020 and is focusing on international aviation capacity, labour and skills shortages, infrastructure and visa reform to ensure the tourism industry reaches its potential. 

Wendy says her visitors from China are amazed at the landscapes when they visit and love to take photos to share on social media. ‘They like to go to the Pink Lake. It’s a status symbol I think in China now, to have seen a pink lake, either our Pink Lake or the one in Esperance. They love the clear skies…they love our pristine beaches and they love our seafood.’

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View of the pink lake, Western Australia

The Pink Lake, Western Australia. Image credit: Linda Roche/DFAT

And Wendy’s international visitors sound delighted by her too. ‘They get fascinated by the fact that a 71 year old lady is still flying—she’s got white hair and she’s not walking around with a walking frame…many of them want to have a photo taken with me as well.’

After more than 39 years flying, Wendy is still hooked. ‘It really does get into your blood. You love it. It is just a beautiful feeling. And you go interesting places and meet interesting people…I’ve seen so much of Australia from an aeroplane’, she says.