Putting town on map
A passion for tourism and the improvement of Pemberton and its people is what drives Toni Dearle.
For the past 20 years, Toni and her husband Graeme have owned Pemberton Discovery Tours and have used their position to promote the region and its wonders to others.
Originally from South Australia, Toni and Graeme came to the region for a holiday to visit Toni’s parents and the suggestion was made they move back to WA.
A former industrial chemist, Toni said becoming a tourism operator had been a big change for her.
“I think hospitality is more my forte,” she said.
“I like making people happy and making sure you tick all the boxes and give people an experience they can’t get anywhere else.
“That’s what the tours are all about, it’s giving them an experience they don’t get elsewhere — that’s why we get some repeat customers.”
Toni said one of the amazing things was seeing generations come through and watching children grow up as families returned through repeat business.
It feels just like yesterday that she and her husband opened the businesses, she said.
“It is an industry that keeps you young, it keeps you growing and evolving and I think that’s what we’ve been doing,” she said.
“We’re trying to improve all the time.”
Some of the milestones Pemberton Discovery Tours has hit over the years includes buying their big, extended Landcruiser, opening a shop in the main street and opening the Pemberton Lodge.
“We also have the eco-tourism accreditation we achieved in 2008,” she said.
Toni said it was great working with the community for those 20 years, including a bio-diesel project with the school.
In addition to making their business the best it can be, Toni and her husband are also involved with volunteer groups in the region.
Toni does the phones for the Pemberton Volunteer Fire and Rescue and is a life member of the Pemberton Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Most recently, she joined the board of the Southern Forests and Blackwood Valley Tourism Association.
“I thought I’d give it a go and while I didn’t expect to be chosen, I think I have contributed and put a few bits and pieces in there which have made a difference,” she said.
“I think it’s important for everyone to contribute in some way.”
During the filming of Jasper Jones, Toni helped the scout team find locations and even ended up using her own property to film some of the movie’s most important scenes.
“They said all they needed was a karri tree that was large, with a branch that was achievable to climb,” Toni said.
“They could build a dam, but not a tree.
“We did keep the dam for a while, but we’ve filled it in since because the tree was starting to look a big sad and we want a big tree more than we want a dam.”
Opportunities like Jasper Jones is one of the reasons Toni believes Pemberton is the jewel of the South West for tourism products.
“I think it’s really important that investment in tourism is recognised by the whole region,” she said.
“At the same time, it’s really exciting seeing development happen.”
The overall aim for tourism operators in the region, she said, was to create experiences that made people stop in town and not just drive through.
With more attractions, Toni said she hoped her business would also benefit and continue to grow.
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