Walking tour boom drives foot traffic in Perth

Eat the Street runs a number of food and drink based tours of Perth suburbs including Mt Lawley.
Eat the Street runs a number of food and drink based tours of Perth suburbs including Mt Lawley. Photo: Danica Zuks
Aleisha Orr 

A passion for Perth is driving a boom in walking tours – and locals are behind that boom.

It’s the people who live here and love the place setting up the tours, and it’s locals who make up most of those actually taking part too.

A decade ago, you might have struggled to find a walking tour in Perth but now there are almost a dozen different operators in the market.

Perth’s most well-known walking tour company, Two Feet & a Heartbeat, has been around since 2007.

The company has been so successful they now run 30 tours a week in Perth and have expanded to Sydney.

Two Feet & a Heartbeat co-founder Ryan Zaknich said there were no walking tours operating in Perth when his company first launched and it had really been in the past five or so years that a lot more outfits had popped up.

Mr Zaknich, who was born and bred in Perth, and co-founder Ryan Mossny were both living in Perth when they started their business.

He said about 60 per cent of those who joined the walking tours in Perth were locals.

“People have been suburbanised for a long time and they’ve realised how cool the city is and want to be part of it,” Mr Zaknich said.

“We’re like a conduit to it.”

Tourism Council chief executive Evan Hall said walking tours had taken off in Perth for a couple of reasons, one being that walking was “one of the few areas not strangled by government processes” and another being that more and more people had a “desire to have an immersive experience”.

He said rather than just looking at something, people wanted to participate, move around and take part in something.

“It’s kind of like the growth in selfies. These days you haven’t been there unless you’ve got the selfie,” Mr Hall said.

He said more people were starting walking tours in Perth because other tours were far more difficult to establish.

“These tours have got up and running because the government has not yet found a way to regulate walking,” he said.

“Just about any other form of tour needs some sort of approval.

“The Segway tours are a classic example, first Segways in a public area were considered a vehicle so it took 18 months to get permission from the Road Safety Council and it had to go through the police minister and the local government authority.

“If you want to walk faster, on the same route, the government hasn’t found a way to stop it yet.”

Mr Hall said the trend of combining walking tours with food and wine experiences was especially popular.

Jacqueline Baril, a Canadian won over by Australia’s west coast, and her partner Mark Padget set up Eat the Street walking tours seven months ago.

Together the couple run five tours a week, covering Mount Lawley, Subiaco and the CBD.

About three of these five food-and-drink based tours, which have a maximum of 10 participants, sell out each week, and about 80 per cent of participants live in Perth.

“People want to check out new places but they are hesitant to leave their old favourites behind,” Ms Baril said.

“Our focus is small, independent, locally owned businesses, so people get to meet the owners of the venues and learn a bit more about them.”

Ms Baril said although many of the walking tour operators in Perth, hers included, were small scale operations, that was part of what made them so good.

“We wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t for our passion for the area,” she said.

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