Western Australian Tourism Minister Pam Beggs has urged closer diplomatic ties among Indian Ocean Rim countries to stimulate the region's tourism industry.
Opening a tourism forum this morning as part of the State Government's Into Asia initiative, Mrs Beggs said changes in aviation technology meant the Indian Ocean Rim would become more appealing to tourists from countries such as Japan, America and Europe.
"The age of the new long haul aircraft is with us which means planes can travel non-stop from Europe to Western Australia," Mrs Beggs said.
"The tourism industry will be transformed by this new aviation technology within a decade leading to a new wave of visitors who will be able to fly non-stop from Europe by the year 2000.
"These non-stop flights will remove a major mental barrier for travel from Europe. No longer will European visitors feel they are being inconvenienced by stopovers to refuel en route."
Mrs Beggs said countries within the region also should look at the whole question of inter-regional airlinks to see how they could be improved for mutual benefit.
"For example, Western Australia has many international flights each week, but there are relatively few to other destinations within the Indian Ocean Rim compared with destinations in other parts of Asia or Europe," she said.
Mrs Beggs said better inter-regional transport links also raised the concept of closer diplomatic relations so visitors to the region could have a relatively high degree of mobility among countries.
"The changes that have happened in Europe and are proposed for the future may well impact on our tourism," she said.
"Already Europe, rather than its individual member States, is being promoted as a tourist destination. As well, there is the move to common currency and far fewer restrictions on travel to and from member States.
"Therefore there is a very real need to look at how moves such as these will impact on us, not only as individual countries but in the regional sense."