Today, we pay tribute to our late friend and colleague Mark Exeter. Mark served the State of Western Australia for more than 40 years, making a significant contribution to the tourism industry through his work in the public sector. In particular, he leaves a legacy to the South West through the many projects he supported and advocated for.
Mark was known and respected widely in the tourism industry, particularly in the South West corner of the State where he lived and worked since the 1990s, residing in Australind. He brought to his work a background that encompassed retail travel, tourism marketing, product development, staff training, destination development and government tourism policy.
He commenced working with the Western Australian Tourism Commission (now trading as Tourism Western Australia) in the early 1980s. He then worked in the Western Australian Tourism Commission office in Sydney before returning to work at the Western Australian Visitor Centre in Perth in the mid-80s. Following this, he took on the role of Great Southern regional manager for Tourism WA, before becoming South West regional manager.
Mark contributed to tourism in various ways over more than four decades in the public service. For example, during his time with Tourism WA, he was a representative on a Ministerial Taskforce and was highly commended for his advice and involvement with this process. In September 2002, the Hon Alannah MacTiernan, who was then Minister for Planning and Infrastructure, established a Ministerial Taskforce to examine issues surrounding the trends of introducing residential components to tourism developments on tourism zoned land, and the implications of strata titling of tourism developments. The Hon Adele Farina MLC, then Member for the South West Region, chaired the Ministerial Taskforce, which included members from Government. At the time, this review and its recommendations represented a very significant reform to planning systems in Western Australia. The Taskforce Report was tabled in the Upper House on 13 August 2003 and identified the need to protect those tourism sites with the greatest value (strategic sites), for the long term viability of the State’s tourism industry (due to their job creation potential).
Mark’s advocacy has assisted in unlocking the South West’s tourism potential, helping to get many projects off the ground. In 1995, the Shire of Busselton, in collaboration with the Busselton Jetty Environment and Conservation Association, embarked on a project to design and construct a major ecotourism attraction. The Busselton Underwater Observatory opened on 13 December 2003 and as everyone knows is a world class attraction, unique in its construction and location, and was hailed as one of the finest underwater attractions of its kind in Australia. Tourism WA allocated to the project $440,000 under its former Tourism Development Fund. This funding went to the Shire of Busselton to assist with construction. Mark was the advocate for this Tourism WA funding which at the time was a large commitment from this agency.
More recently, since 2010, Mark has worked within the South West Development Commission where he was responsible for a great deal of tourism planning on behalf of the State and inward tourism investment attraction for the South West. His main objective in his role at SWDC was to improve economic development though infrastructure development, strategic planning and supporting tourism, from cruise ship attraction to tourism infrastructure development. He worked on tourism policy and development with a focus on infrastructure, events and packaging.
He represented tourism interests on many boards, including destination marketing organisations. Recent representative positions include with the Dolphin Discovery Centre, GeoParksWA, Cruise Bunbury Committee, Cruise Western Australia Committee, and City of Bunbury’s International Relations Committee – Vietnam, China and Japan. Organisations he was involved in included SKAL International and FACET (Forum Advocating Cultural and Eco-Tourism).
He was also a great advocate for food and wine tourism in Margaret River and the South West.
His volunteer work saw him facilitate an international wildlife agreement between Bunbury and Borneo.
Mark presented at tourism-related conferences and seminars, both in Australia and overseas. These have included professional development workshops in Vietnam (Hanoi and HoChiMin) and as a keynote speaker in Malaysian Borneo (Kuching and Mulu). He had linkages with both Curtin and Edith Cowan universities.
While Mark is deservingly well remembered for his work supporting the tourism industry, he is also equally known for his larger-than-life character. He had a big, exuberant personality and a clear passion for tourism. He loved sharing this with colleagues, friends, and students at both Edith Cowan University and Curtin University who he influenced over the years.
Mark clearly loved his family, speaking fondly of his wife and two children.
He was a great friend to the South West and the WA tourism industry – and will be greatly missed.
To celebrate Mark’s life, a memorial service will be held at the Dolphin Discovery Centre in Bunbury at 3pm on Friday 9th July. Mark’s family have asked those wishing to honour him to please consider a donation to Bowel Cancer Australia or plan a visit to the South West region of WA, which Mark was so passionate about.