2019 marks 30 years of excellence in the tourism, retail and hospitality industries for the Western Australian Banfield Family. Today, the current operation of 7 pearl jewellery showrooms, 4 daily-run tourism experiences, 2 cafes, 1 restaurant and a large commercial pearling operation is a far cry from where it all began.
After moving to Broome in 1989, the wheat and sheep farming Banfield family made their first foray into tourism when they entered into business with renowned business developer Lord McAlpine, forming Broome Buslines.
The father, Don Banfield met The Lord, whilst driving limousines in Perth, just as he was playing a key role in the development of Broome as a tourism destination. On a visit to Broome with Don, they identified the fact that the town needed a reliable bus service and they joined together in this venture. Just as the Banfield family were beginning to establish themselves in Broome, tragedy struck. Whilst driving one of their buses to Fitzroy Crossing Don had an unexpected heart attack. He was aged 51, and left his wife Valda a widow with four children.
His sons Robert and Darren, together with the rest of their family continued on and worked to grow the business. After running a bus service out to Willie Creek Pearl Farm, the opportunity arose for the Banfield family to take over the tour operation at Willie Creek Pearl Farm, and so began their journey into the pearling industry.
Today, the Banfield family’s efforts have resulted in Willie Creek Pearls being recognised as one of the most awarded tour attractions in Western Australia. The company has been inducted into the WA Tourism Hall of Fame three times and won two Sir David Brand Awards (the pinnacle of WA Tourism) and most recently awarded a Bronze Medal at the Qantas Australian Tourism Awards.
Completing the “pearling” story in recent years, the Banfield family’s journey led them to come full-circle, back to their roots in farming when they acquired one of only 17 commercial pearl farming licenses available in Western Australia, located 10 nautical miles off the coast of Broome. This license was obtained in addition to the original pearling license issued for tourism purposes at Willie Creek.
“The journey from being solely a tourism operator and now progressing to being in a position to not only grow some of the finest pearls in the world on a commercial scale, but to also be able to talk about them, and to provide them to our customers worldwide is hugely rewarding” said Willie Creek Pearls’ Chairman, Robert Banfield.
“Last week when a Chinese customer purchased a 19.7 mm pearl, it reminded me of this. Our business was able to firstly grow this magnificent pearl then educate the customer on why it was highly valued through our tourism experience. This ultimately led to them having enough confidence in our people and brand to make the decision to purchase. It’s a fond memory to me as this is the outcome that the hard work and sacrifice has been about” added Mr Banfield.
To celebrate this milestone, Willie Creek Pearls invited their customers to share their special “Willie Creek Pearls Moments” from the last 30 years. Those who shared their stories went into the running to win an all-inclusive “trip of a lifetime to Broome” valued at $21,500, including a 9-day luxury Kimberley cruise for two with Odyssey Expeditions.