Murdoch researchers to benchmark redeveloped Dolphin Discovery Centre

Dolphin Discovery Centre chief executive David Kerr, Bunbury MLA Don Punch and South West Development Commission acting chief executive officer Rebecca Ball with the team who worked on the expansion of the Dolphin Discovery Centre.
Dolphin Discovery Centre chief executive David Kerr, Bunbury MLA Don Punch and South West Development Commission acting chief executive officer Rebecca Ball with the team who worked on the expansion of the Dolphin Discovery Centre.

After undergoing a major $13 million redevelopment, Murdoch University researchers have returned to Bunbury to benchmark the Dolphin Discovery Centre.

Since reopening its doors in December 2018, visitors can now enjoy modern exhibits and four times the display space including 13 aquariums, and enhanced educational and public facilities including a café and improved beach access.

Researchers from Murdoch’s Harry Butler Institute Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Ecosystems will be at the Dolphin Discovery Centre until Friday, January 18, 2019, surveying visitors about dolphin tourism and other services important to them and how well the offerings met their expectations.

Following a visitor satisfaction survey conducted in January 2018, Harry Butler Institute researcher Greg Simpson said it was great to be back working with the centre, and was excited about the research collaboration that would benchmark the ecotourism performance of the redeveloped complex.

“This is an exciting project, because very few studies compare at different times how well an ecotourism operation like the Dolphin Discovery Centre meets the expectations of tourists,” he said.

“Feedback from the last survey identified the dolphin-focused ecotourism experiences offered by the Dolphin Discovery Centre performed well overall, but visitors identified the facilities were dated and interpretation for the beach-based dolphin interaction could be improved.

“Being able to compare visitor satisfaction before and after a major redevelopment makes this industry-focused research collaboration unique.”

Dolphin Discovery Centre chief executive David Kerr said the overall vision of the redevelopment was to create a contemporary, world class visitor experience that could attract increased visitation to the region and increase economic benefits.

He said having the knowledge of what was important to visitors was critical for planning and managing the expanded tourism offering of the new centre.

“While the Koombana Bay dolphins remain the primary focus of the conservation, research, and wildlife tourism delivered by the Dolphin Discovery Centre, the redeveloped centre also offers enhanced marine wildlife displays and education that introduces visitors to the variety and wonder of the marine and freshwater aquatic ecosystems found in South West WA,” Mr Kerr said.

“We are excited to be again working with Murdoch researchers to find out what is important to Dolphin Discovery Centre visitors and how well the information and services we provide meet their expectations.”

South West Development Commission chief executive Rebecca Ball said the redevelopment was a cornerstone of the state government program to transform Bunbury’s waterfront including Koombana Bay.

“As the number one tourist attraction in the regional City of Bunbury, and an iconic tourism destinations in Australia’s South West, the Dolphin Discovery Centre is an important driver of ecologically sustainable development in Bunbury and the across the region more broadly,” she said.

“The Dolphin Discovery Centre is a true ‘triple bottom line’ operation with its ecotourism activities supporting dolphin research and education, driving regional economic development and promoting the social connections and interactions that are essential for building strong and healthy regional communities.”