Wednesday 25th June 2008
3.1  Tourism marketing
Tourism trends and strategies

Mr FINCH - Tourism is a vital industry in my electorate and I am seriously worried about the prediction of a worsening downturn in the tourism industry, and there are the fuel costs.  Of course, we know the value of the Australian dollar overseas and for visitors coming here it is not such a good destination.  I know that the outlook for the coming year looks strong in respect of the minister's projections which are on page 214.  I am wondering what programs are in place or are being developed to cope with what might be a substantial downturn.

Ms WRIEDT - I want to put this into context because it does correlate with what I have said about the positioning of Tasmania in relation to the other States and Territories and where they have been.  These are the figures for the year ending December 2007.  During that time Australians took 56 million trips which was down 1 per cent yet Tasmania had the biggest increase in overnight leisure travel to each State.  We went up 3 per cent and the only other States to go up were Queensland by 2 per cent and Victoria and South Australia both by 1 per cent.  Western Australia went down 7 per cent.  We also had the biggest increase in overnights; we were 8 per cent up.  No-one else came near us in terms of that.  The biggest increase among the others was 4 per cent. 

Just to put it into context, there has been an overall decline in Australians travelling domestically but we have out-performed every other State and Territory in that context.  I think that that is as a direct result of what has been some substantial effort in the last three years, in particular, to redefine how we present Tasmania to the rest of the country.  We have done perception studies to understand what it is that visitors and potential visitors to the State want and so we try to target accordingly in our advertising efforts.  It is really hard, I guess, to define in a short answer what it is that we are doing to arrest that trend because everything that we are doing is aimed at ensuring that we maintain where we are at the moment in that really competitive market.  As I have said to this committee before, Australians are travelling less; they are travelling overseas more when they do travel.  The Australian dollar does not help, the fuel thing is an issue, Green groups advocating in the UK that people should not take long-haul flights is alarming for the Australian tourism industry as a whole.  I could not get Ms Putt to provide me with any commentary on that on Monday when we were in the lower House, surprisingly, but it is a concern that they have been very vocal.  There are a lot of things that are external influences that we cannot control but I think in the work that we have done and particularly going to television screens it has made people sit up and take notice of us and we are seeing those results.  It is about building on that. 

We have put a lot effort in recently to enhancing our digital strategy and making sure that because we know that that is the way Australians tend to book now increasingly, it is rare for travel agents to take bookings for domestic flights, for example, or even domestic holidays.  Overseas is a different matter.  People tend to still book their overseas holidays using the traditional methods, but not so much domestically so we have done a lot of work on our digital strategies.  Felicia, when she came in, realigned the organisation to bring it into the contemporary environment of having digital specialists on board to try to rewrite our platforms and that sort of thing.

Mr FINCH - It did concern me when looking through the budget papers that tourism is more of a low-profile activity for Tasmania.  I do not see it as the dynamic industry that I am accustomed to, reading about the way we do tourism in Tasmania. 

Look at the Northern Territory, their budget for Tourism this year is $39 million; we have just over $30 million.  I figured we should do a comparison between the State and the Territory, bearing in mind that we have a greater population.

Ms WRIEDT - The Northern Territory have a bit of a problem because they had a 6 per cent decline in the number of nights spent in the Territory, so they obviously need to put in substantially more.  You need to remember that it is not just within the Tourism output or this department that you find contributions towards Tourism as such, because there are items that appear in other agencies' budgets that contribute towards Tourism.  For example, the Three Capes Walk, enhancements to our national parks that are not in our budget -

Mr FINCH - The Mark Webber initiative, does that come into your department?

Ms WRIEDT - Yes, it does.

The $23 million north-west tourist road allocation appears in the DIER estimates not in this one.  Things like the $30 million redevelopment of the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, given that TMAG is one of our most visited attractions in the State, is a contribution we are making towards Tourism.  The Botanical Gardens sits in another department; Port Arthur, which received an extra $1 million in conservation funding this year, does not sit in here.  The Government, in relation to Tourism, I think wears two hats.  We have the marketing side and promotional side through Tourism Tasmania, but the Government is also the State's largest tourism operator, because of running Port Arthur, Botanical Gardens, the Museum, Tahune Air Walk and a number of other attractions.  We play a dual role as an investor in tourism in those sorts of things as well as what we do with Tourism Tasmania.

In this Budget there is also the commitment - which is not small in dollar terms - to the Tasmanian Brand Project.  This project is not just about tourism but Tourism will be a beneficiary of our commitment to refocus the eyes of the world on Tasmania and what we have to offer here.

Mr FINCH - Okay.

So would it be fair to say that you are not anticipating tough times at Tourism Tasmania?

Ms WRIEDT - We are optimistic about Tasmania's performance going forward, because we have put in a really solid effort and because of the things that we are doing.  It does not mean that it is not going to be challenging and that is the message that we are and have been sending our operators.  Quite honestly, three years ago we did predict that we would see a flattening off or even a decline in our visitor numbers.  I remember addressing the Tourism Industry Council annual conference three years ago and warning operators that the significant increase in visitor numbers that we were seeing could not continue because we could not continue to sustain that increase.  We did not think it was possible.  We have done that, and a lot of credit can go to Felicia, in the time that she has been here, and the new structure that she has put in place and the new team that she has brought with her.  They have been thinking about a new way to sell the State beyond the traditional ways.  The sort of the innovative, clever stuff that I talked about with the honeymoon where we get huge value for very little outlay.

Mr FINCH - I might have a good idea for you.

Given that fuel prices could represent a barrier to visitation, would you consider a fuel discount for visitors to Tasmania?  Perhaps it might support the TT-Line to help get visitors across.  It does not need to be much but it is the thought that counts.  I know that it was tried in Italy during the 1960s with some success.

Ms WRIEDT - There is already a program that Innkeepers run offering fuel vouchers to people who come to the State and stay a certain number of days at Innkeepers properties around the State.  There are already incentives there.  Has the Government considered such a program?  No, we have not and, given that there is no crisis as we are still attracting people here, I would be hesitant to advocate any sort of a program at the moment.  I would hope that we do not get to crisis point because I think we have done the groundwork and positioned ourselves very well, particularly in comparison to other States.

Probably the biggest challenge is not so much petrol but the aviation fuel prices and the way that that will impact on us in terms of access to the State.  We remain very active in discussions with the airlines.  We are in the process of developing a comprehensive aviation strategy and have done a large amount of work so that we can present to different airlines substantial business cases for increased flights to the State out of various airports.

Mr FINCH - My thoughts were mainly in the TT-Line area with the fuel discount.

Ms WRIEDT - It could be something that the TT-Line might want to pursue but that is not for me.

Mr FINCH - I am just wondering about the market for retirees.  Are we properly addressing this market?  Is that one of your questions?

Mrs JAMIESON - No, it is me who is retiring.

Mr FINCH - We have two million fully-funded retirees in Australia and they are increasing by about 100 000 each year.  I imagine that retirees would want to come to the comfort zone of Tasmania compared with those very dangerous and unpredictable overseas destinations.  Do we have a focus on retirees?

Ms MARIANI - I am not ready yet for retirement but I am getting to an age where I do not want to talk about it.  A lot of research shows that retirees are not the retirees we knew and we have to start to talk to them very differently.  One thing that I always talk to the caravan and camping crew about, because they keep talking about the grey nomads - and even Bernard Salt reinforced this which made me feel redeemed because I have been saying this for a long time - if you are going to talk to the baby boomer generation, the next wave of retirees, you had better change the name because none of us want to be called grey nomads.  I will die with coloured hair.


Mr WING - I am the same.

Ms MARIANI - There is a complete change in the psychology of how we talk to these audiences.  You are right, I have been banging on about this not only at a Tasmanian level but also at an international level, because one of the things that I am frustrated about is that Tourism Australia does not seem to have a campaign that is designed to talk to people who are now moving into that 55 to 65 age bracket.  In America, 8 000 people per day are turning over the age of 60.  I understand the passion and the interest in Asia, but here is a huge population of people who speak English and have a high propensity to want to travel to Australia, it has always been the aspirational destination of choice with people in North America.  They have large disposable income and now they are going to have time and we do not have a campaign to focus on these people.

We have started looking at this and that is why I am investigating a lot of the research.  We have been doing a lot of work on how you engage with this audience now because we cannot talk to them the way that we talk to the retirees of my parents' generation.  This generation will go kicking and screaming into that part of their life.  There is a very interesting group that is starting to build up in the North American market because, as is the problem in Australia, they are running out of people in the next generation; there just are not as many of them.  They do not want the baby boomer generation to retire but that generation does not want to stay working, so they are looking at sabbatical programs to give them time to take a year or 18 months off, go travelling and have all that self-actualisation stuff that they are all looking for, but then come back to the job because we cannot afford to lose them.  Again, to me there is a whole strategy that can be built around just talking to those people who want to take a sabbatical.  Australia has such a high disposition with these people and that is where I think we need to start working.

I do not have a strategy to say, 'Absolutely we are doing it' but what we are doing is starting to understand how you talk to this new generation of retirees because it is a very different way of communicating to them.  They are not looking for the passive holiday that my parents might have looked for, they are looking for 'self-actualisation' - this idea of going to destinations where you can learn something, where you can have self-fulfilment, where you can give something back.  Tasmania is very well placed for that whole area.  This concept of 'voluntourism' - this is another jargon word - is a big trend in terms of what people are looking for in this 50-plus age group.  They want to get engaged with programs where they can come and volunteer their time to give something back to the communities or back in the nature stakes.  Those are all territories that we are exploring.  I believe it is a downfall of tourism at a global level that we have not recognised.  There is a whole market out there of the way we need to start changing and talking to these people.  Every time the baby boomers move to another phase of their life they take a whole world economy with them.  Tourism is still thinking about the younger people, when in fact there is a huge opportunity here in the older group but you cannot call them 'retirees' and you had better not call them 'grey nomads'.  That is why I wanted to answer that question.

Ms WRIEDT - Effectively we want to get the message out to them that if they do retire, if they chose not to do the sabbatical, there is no need for them to sit home and watch reruns of the Pink Panther.  They can come out here and have a fulfilling experience.

CHAIR - Minister, from somebody else who hopes not to have to die with grey hair as well, I am going to call a tea break!