Tuesday 24 May 2011 - Part 1
Hansard of the Legislative Council
Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Motion) - Madam President, I move -
That the Legislative Council Select Committee report on tourism in Tasmania be considered and noted.
Madam President, I take this opportunity to welcome our new members to the House, the members for Rumney, Derwent and Launceston - not necessarily in that order - and also to congratulate the member for Murchison for her re-election unopposed. What a lovely ring that has to it.
In moving this motion in my name, Madam President, I want to refer to the latest state of the industry report from Tourism Australia and I think it says it all. The Australian tourism industry has been affected by the global financial crisis, the strength of the Australian dollar, greater competition in Asia and more Australians travelling abroad rather than within Australia more than ever before. The whole of the Australian tourism industry has seen a significant downturn in domestic tourism numbers. In fact, according to the state of the industry report Australia's tourism industry has been losing market share since the year 2000 so this report on the Tasmanian tourism industry, which I want to bring to the attention of the House, is timely, to say the least.
I want to quote from the conclusion of that national report, Madam President:
'The Australian tourism industry is a significant part of the Australian economy. It is not just a leisure-based activity, rather an industry which generates substantial income and employment, and disperses this activity and associated benefits widely throughout Australia.
However, tourism in an industry that has faced significant challenges. During this past decade, domestic travel by Australians has declined, contrasting the rapid growth of outbound travel. Growth in international arrivals to Australia slowed considerably since 2000 compared to the previous two decades.
This report has identified some clear drivers of these outcomes. The strength of the Australian dollar and the rapid expansion of international aviation capacity have underpinned much of the industry's performance over the past decade. However, for Australia's largest market, domestic travel by Australians, it is also clear that the Australian tourism experience is no longer as compelling as it once was. Nor is domestic tourism competing as effectively as it could against other forms of consumption expenditure.
The competitive environment facing the tourism industry will continue to be intense. The industry is likely to face significant new challenges. However, with these challenges there will also be new opportunities for growth.'
That is the end of the quote from that national report and, I might say, a somewhat depressing national picture. But there are some differences from the national norm here in Tasmania. Our workforce is even more dependent on tourism than the national average. Nationally tourism accounts for 4.5 per cent of employment - that is 486 000 direct jobs. In Tasmania the figure is 6.1 per cent. The other major difference is that Tasmania is different. We have a unique built and natural heritage, we have advantages that the rest of Australia does not have. We have attractions for visitors found nowhere else in the world. But we have to be constantly examining and reviewing ways to bring Tasmania's advantages to the attention of potential visitors.
Madam President, Tourism Australia's State of the Industry Report, which has been compiled over the past 12 months, as I mentioned, makes somewhat depressing reading. But it is looking at the short term. We should be looking much further ahead and planning much further ahead also.
An international tourism summit in Las Vegas in the United States last week was told that there is a potential travel gold rush ahead because about 2 billion new, middle-class consumers are expected to come into the market from emerging powerhouses of China, India and Brazil in the next two decades.
The Chief Executive of the World Travel and Tourism Council, David Scowsill, told the conference:
'The growth of China outbound travel is moving at a huge pace. It is about a 20 per cent increase every year. The number of outbound Chinese travellers hit 58 million last year.'
CEOs from many of the world's biggest travel companies and the top tourism officials were asked at the Las Vegas conference whether they were ready to absorb the predicted massive increase in growth. Were governments ready with infrastructure? Were private investors ready with investment? Madam President, Tasmania needs to be ready to fight for its share of that predicted travel surge.
But let us come back to the present. Our committee heard some highly relevant evidence and much of it was reflected in our conclusions and recommendations. But there is rarely enough room in a report like this to highlight everything. However, as well as the final report, the new Minister for Tourism also has access to a record of all the hearings and I hope that he will be able to take this into account as he continues to read himself into the portfolio. I think there will be a lot of assistance for him in his new role.
Of particular interest, but which could have had more of a run in the final report, was the submission from Business Events Tasmania. I want to highlight it because that is a relatively new name for the Tasmanian Convention Bureau which says it is working to get people to come to Tasmania to experience not just sitting at a conference in a hall having a meeting but also getting out and experiencing some of Tasmania's really good tourist attractions.
As Chairman of Business Events Tasmania, Tony Hart, told the committee, this is also a particularly high-yield business which is very attractive to the industry. In terms of international business events it is only a small part of our make-up but it is something that we are looking at ongoing to attract more delegates in this area.
We heard of the importance of business events to the tourism sector in Tasmania. It will bring 25 000 delegates to Tasmania this year with an estimated basic value of $31.1 million, with an extra $11 million because it is estimated that delegates will spend more time in Tasmania at the end of their conference.
Tourism Tasmania's figures on those who visited Tasmania for conventions or seminars in 2010 showed a total of 30 700 - really significant figures as far as the convention business is concerned.
Business Events Tasmania does not believe that Tasmania needs a new purpose-built conference centre at this stage, for a number of reasons, but what is needed is more high-grade hotel accommodation in both Hobart and Launceston.
I mentioned earlier what Tasmania has that is unique and that includes our historic homes and sites. Last year's visitor figures reinforced these as attractions. Tourism Tasmania's research says that there were 916 600 visitors to Tasmania last year, close to one million. The vast majority of these figures were for holidays. Sixty-eight per cent of those visitors to Tasmania last year visited historic homes. They went to historic sites. They went to other historic attractions. That is a total of 648 000 people. As the National Trust puts it:
'Tasmania's built and cultural heritage constitutes one of the two key competitive advantages for the state's tourism industry, (the state's other such advantage being temperate wilderness) within the principal visitor markets of south-eastern Australia. Multiple surveys and studies by Tourism Tasmania, the commercial sector and even other competing Australian visitor destinations have reaffirmed the primacy of these two Tasmanian competitive advantages over the past decade.'
While the National Trust makes the important point about built and cultural heritage it is disappointed by the attitude of Tasmanian governments. I quote:
'The reality is that heritage and the contribution that heritage can make to a vibrant tourism industry in Tasmania has been, with a small number of notable exceptions, largely either overlooked or ignored by both government and significant elements of the tourism industry itself'.
Managing Director of the Tasmanian section of the National Trust of Australia, Chris Tassell, says there is an enormous reliance on community based organisations and initiatives for the preservation and interpretation of Tasmania's heritage assets. Mr Tassell says that one of the problems is that responsibility for heritage - be it built, moveable and intangible - is spread across a wide range of government agencies, which individually are only responsible for the direct management of a small part of the State's cultural heritage.
Mr Tassell says that in order for the contribution that cultural heritage makes to Tasmania's tourism industry to be recognised and to continue to develop there is a need for the effective resourcing of the participants, both government and community-based. I will quote Mr Tassell again:
'There is a need for targeted, practical support for community-based organisations involved in the documentation and interpretation of the State's heritage. The support should be focused on allowing these organisations to articulate with and be more directly involved with the Tasmanian tourism industry. In aiming to achieve this objective it is critical that such cost-effective support be directly targeted at the needs of community organisations themselves. The National Trust would welcome the opportunity of working with the Tasmanian Government to achieve such an outcome'.
That is Mr Tassell of the National Trust with an opportunity for the new tourism minister. It is quite interesting that the National Trust in Tasmania has 465 hardworking volunteers and they are rebuilding their membership. At the moment it is at almost 2 000. I think about 13 or 15 years ago it was at an all-time high of 5 000 but they would be looking to rebuild to those numbers again.
Tasmania's food and wine industries may not be unique, but their difference does make them an attraction for visitors. Last year's Tourism Tasmania figures showed that 16 per cent of all visitors visited wineries. Forty per cent visited a local food producer.
We also hear a lot about wilderness and bushwalking. Last year's figures showed that 70 per cent of all visitors to Tasmania participated in day walks of varying duration. If you add overnight walks you would presumably have an even higher percentage, so walking in Tasmania is a strong part of what locals and visitors do now and it will be a growing opportunity in the future, and we highlight the development of the Three Capes Walk in our report.
[11.30 a.m.]
On the report itself, in seeking to have the tourism committee established, our Chair, the former honourable member for Launceston said:
'As to how important, different people have different views, but I regard it as one of the most important industries and having enormous potential. The intent of this motion is to appoint a select committee and to support tourism in this State; to seek ways of promoting tourism in different ways from the present, if appropriate; to seek ways of overcoming any problems facing the tourism industry and individual operators; to seek ways of assisting tourism to reach its full potential, and, above all, to be positive and helpful, not negative.'
Mr Harriss - We could make the former member an ambassador for tourism if we wanted to.
Mr FINCH - We could make him an ambassador for just about everything. If I might digress just to talk again about Don Wing, the former member for Launceston, yes, I think that we have there a very special person. I think we will all reflect upon our committee work and how strong a leader he was. His guidance, wisdom and experience in the tourism industry helped us fashion a good solid report reflected in that quote that I have just given to the House. We will all reflect very fondly on the development of this particular report.
I certainly hope that the new Minister for Tourism will be able to digest this report and put a case for more - rather than less - funding for tourism. I realise that it was restored -
Mr Harriss - Footy in the south will help that.
Members laughing.
Mr FINCH - That is where we diverge. I will not go down that track, that is a debate for another time.
Mr Wilkinson - We are wearing blue and white already, you realise.
Ms Rattray - Through you, Madam President - if we don't hurry up and have a decision, they will be walking, I believe.
Mr FINCH - Yes, thank you. I knew we would digress further than we really should, so thanks very much for that, the honourable member for Huon.
Mr Parkinson - The honourable member for Huon and I have one thing in common.
Mr FINCH - Madam President, I will try to continue. The report has generally been well received by the industry. Launceston members of the international tourism industry fellowship Sk�l commend the report and the approach by the Legislative Council. If I might quote from Sk�l's comments on the report, Madam President:
'Whilst we support and agree with most findings the most important factor realised in the report is the recognition of the importance to Tasmania of the Tourism Industry.
For too long the industry has not been accepted as an Export Industry by Treasury and the Department of Economic Development resulting in lack of support in development of tourism infrastructure and facilities.
The National Export Marketing Development Grants has for many years provided compensation to export promotion in recognition of its involvement in the export industry and this should be observed as an indication of its importance to export figures.
We are at present in a flux situation recognising that we have a number of new personnel taking the reins of our industry and we believe that time is necessary for them to evaluate and propose new measures under which the industry can operate.
These representatives include Treasury, the Tourism Tasmania Board Chairman and the new CEO, and the recent appointment of a new CEO to the Tourism Industry Council of Tasmania.'
Sk�l Tasmania also have some very constructive comments on some of the conclusions in the report, which affect Launceston; for example, that the University of Tasmania Launceston campus could be further utilised to promote international student study and the TT-Line should be further supported as an integral part of the mode of travel to Tasmania. Sk�l has a strong comment on funding:
'Any reduction, particularly at this stage, of the Tourism budget, considering the Queensland floods etc that have seen more marketing dollars injected into their promotions, will be highly detrimental to the return of the tourism industry figures of recent years. This is a critical time for the budget to increase rather than be reduced.'
Just in case you were wondering whether there was any comment on the silt, Madam President, in the letter from Sk�l yes, there was. It sees the problem of siltation in the upper Tamar as having a detrimental effect on the way visitors see Launceston.
The Tourism Industry Council of Tasmania says it strongly supports many of the key findings in this report. TICT Chief Executive Luke Martin says it is imperative that the State Government at least maintain the current level of spending on tourism marketing and promotion and if I could quote Mr Martin:
'The select committee has acknowledged that tourism benefits almost every business in the State and that in this case you have to spend money to make money. We recognise that the Government has some hard decisions to make in the coming Budget but there should not be any reduction in tourism marketing and promotion.'
That is the end of quote but Mr Martin has said that the industry has long advocated that the Government could increase efficiency and get better results by ensuring Tourism Tasmania focused more on its core responsibility of attracting more visitors. One of the key recommendations, that there should be a body separated from the State bureaucracy operating independently and solely as a marketing company similar to Tourism New Zealand, is backed by the Tourism Industry Council provided that it is adequately funded. Again, I will quote Mr Martin:
'We agree that if Tourism Tasmania is restructured then the Government must establish a tourism unit within the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and the Arts and to provide it with tourism policy advice and research support.
We agree fully that the importance of tourism to the Tasmanian economy is underrated and people need to be made more aware of how visitor expenditure benefits every sector.'
Those are some of the Tourism Industry Council's views, Madam President.
A couple of things - and not wanting to steal the thunder of other members from the committee who might want to contribute to the report - that stand out for me and, firstly, every Tasmanian whether in the tourism industry or not has a role to play in promoting Tasmania and welcoming and helping visitors. Every Tasmanian is a tourism ambassador. Everyone should be aware that a friendly smile and a helpful approach enhance the experience of any visitor.
I will quote from one of our recommendations:
'An awareness campaign be conducted to impress upon all Tasmanians the importance of tourism to our economy and employment, as well as the role they can play in promoting Tasmania and in welcoming and assisting visitors to our State.'
That is one of our recommendations.
I was one of the three members who went to New Zealand to have a look at their tourism industry. They are doing several things better than we are and we could learn from New Zealand. The things that really stood out were that in New Zealand, Tourism New Zealand is a body separated from the State bureaucracy. It can react much more quickly to changing circumstances and one of the recommendations is that the Tasmanian Government separates Tourism Tasmania from the State bureaucracy to enable it to operate independently and solely as a marketing company similar to Tourism New Zealand.
The committee also looked closely at how the Internet can help our tourism industry and we concluded that more should be done in Tasmania. I will quote from our conclusions:
'The internet continues to have a significant impact on tourism, resulting in the need for new destinational marketing strategies, the use of online booking websites and the growth of social online media as a marketing tool.'
Also many Tasmanian tourism operators are yet to embrace the Internet and this is likely to adversely affect the viability of their businesses and also limit the potential for growth in tourism.
Ms Rattray - Through you, Madam President - was that point supported by the former member who wasn't really IT savvy?
Mr FINCH - He agreed that everybody else should do it and not necessarily personally.
Mr Hall - Quite right too; the Speaker takes that line as well.
Mr FINCH - That is right, yes. Our impression in New Zealand was that the Internet was being used more efficiently and effectively than here in Tasmania although my impression also was that we are doing fairly well with our embracing of the Internet. There is rapidly developing potential in social media. It is not just a way of marketing to young people but certainly to a wider public. The problem, of course, is keeping up with its incredibly rapid development.
Social media develops almost daily. But it must be realised that while all forms of social media can be used as a promotional tool it is primarily a form of peer-to-peer communication. It was interesting the number of people that we talked to on our trip who do, in fact, do the texting all the time and contacting their friends, talking about their experience and certainly recommendations to social media websites.
Finally, I have always thought that we do not do enough for backpackers. For many reasons this is a vital sector of our tourism industry and fits with Tasmania's image as a place for adventure and wilderness experiences. If I might quote from our recommendations, 'the Tasmanian Government, through Tourism Tasmania, undertake a review of the backpacker sector to maximise its potential as a niche market'.
In our report in all there are 32 recommendations. I think they demonstrate that while our hands might be tied because of world factors beyond our control, there is plenty that we can do to sustain and grow this very important Tasmanian industry.
I ask members to support the motion to note this report.
[11.42 a.m.]