Tuesday 22 November 2005

Mr FINCH (Rosevears - Motion) - Mr President, I move -

That the annual report of Tourism Tasmania 2004-05 be noted.

Mr President, you hardly hear the word 'tourism' uttered in Tasmania these days without it being coupled with that scourge term of the tourism industry 'downturn'. We are told more and more people are afraid to travel, even to Tasmania, because of the threat of terrorism. We read that a survey of consumer confidence has shown that one in five Australians fear they may lose their job in the next year. We hear that more and more Australians are afraid to leave their homes and their jobs for any extended period because they may not be there when they return.

Consumer spending trends show that high petrol prices are diverting money away from retail and travel. The perennial difficulty of access has been removed with the advent of discount fares and the State Government's decision to buy three new ferries. Hindsight would suggest that it went a ferry too far but it is nevertheless viable at least in the medium term and all three ships continue to operate.

This year's annual tourism awards winners are representative of the high standards that the industry has reached. That is in yesterday's Examiner. I am not suggesting the tourism industry should rest on any laurels, Mr President, but just that we recognise the progress that has been made.

There are some salient figures in Tourism Tasmania's annual report 2004-05. While overall visitor numbers for the year increased by 1 per cent, the increase in repeat visitors was 8 per cent, so that is an important number, Mr President. The tourism industry is certainly doing something right if there were 482 800 repeat visitors during 2004-05.

Mr President, this is a positive report. I am just trying to find my way here because I think my speech has been sabotaged again.

Mrs Rattray-Wagner - Not really.

Mr FINCH - I will find my way through it. It is a positive report. You just need to look at the progress of Tasmania's tourism industry in the past 20 years. Sure, visitor numbers might be easing off from a peak but peaks are never sustained and all visitor graphs do go up and down.

The editorial column in Monday's Examiner sums up the present situation, Mr President, and I will quote:

'The annual Tasmanian tourism awards are a reminder of just how far the industry has come in the past decade.

Since 1996, when the State and private enterprise adopted a genuinely cooperative approach to tourism, the industry has grown from $450 million a year to about $1.2 billion.

It has become a major employer and drew nearly 800,000 visitors to the State last financial year.'

And there were those other comments I have made earlier, of the perennial difficulty of access being removed by the discount of fares and the State Government's decision to buy the three new ferries.

Just to focus now on my electorate of Rosevears, Mr President, it has much going for it. The Tamar Valley is one of the most scenic parts of the State. The concentration of wine production in the area is a great attraction to visitors.

Mr Hall - When the tide is in.

Mr FINCH - It looks pretty good when the tide is out, I can tell you. But apart from its natural attractions, the west Tamar has a tremendous asset to the tourism industry and that is its residents and its ideas.

You will notice during those tourism awards I mentioned earlier that three Tamar Valley businesses were acknowledged and they were Tamar River Cruises, Lavender House - further north in my electorate at Rowella - and then I will just crib a little, I think, into the member for Windermere's area, to acknowledge the success of the beer-lovers' establishment in Launceston, the old Tamar Hotel. Three Tamar businesses have done well in those awards.

Mrs Rattray-Wagner - I thought that was Boags Brewery?

Mr FINCH - Yes, it is Boags, but it is the beer-lovers' museum and attraction.

During my study of Tourism Tasmania's report, I canvassed ideas and comments from some of the operators in my electorate and, without attribution, I would like to read some of the comments, and here are some at random.

The first one: 'I tend to think Tourism Tas do an excellent job promoting Tasmania but perhaps a more sustained marketing effort should be in place than is currently the case'.

The next one: 'Air access has never been more affordable but there is a lot of competition from other destinations also serviced by discount airlines'.
'The future potential for interstate visitors, I think, is very positive. We have millions of baby boomers about to retire and I see this demographic as our major prospect.'

'I tend to believe that Launceston Cataract Gorge and the Tamar Valley are under promoted, with the emphasis on the major tourism icons.'

'We have a lot of complaints from visitors about poor signage, both local and State.'

'Direct flights into Launceston from Brisbane lifted Queensland visitor numbers considerably as has the direct flight from Adelaide to Hobart.'

'Our international numbers are up, which is a direct result of the Best of Australia campaign and we are looking to the Short Breaks program and joint marketing initiatives to at least maintain last year's figures.'

They are some comments from my electorate, Mr President, and I know that Tourism Tasmania will be listening to those.

Mr President, tourism accounts for one in nine Tasmanian jobs and it is a vital part of the economy of my electorate of Rosevears. The industry is well aware that the market is changing and that Tasmania's tourism industry must change ahead of it.

The Chairman of Tourism Tasmania, John King, in this annual review, lists the challenges succinctly as changing travel patterns, increased competition, rapid technological change and adoption, changing consumer demand, information sourcing and purchasing arrangements, the need for greater community engagement and support, the need to ensure product and service standards continue to improve, and a stagnating Australian domestic tourism market.

I commend this important report to the House, Mr President, and I note, as does the report, that we have a new minister for tourism, and the hopes of a big part of the West Tamar's economy will rest in the minister's ideas on Tourism Tasmania and its approach to our local tourism operators.