Thursday 22 September 2011

Hansard of the Legislative Council



[11.05 a.m.]

Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Madam President, you seldom hear about Tasmania's tourism industry these days without it being linked to phrases like 'gloomy outlook' and 'downturn'. We have just had the economic development briefing. I had a look at the list of the opportunities to maximise Tasmania's economic potential in key sectors and I noticed that tourism ran a very poor last in there. It was not what we discovered when we did our investigations on the tourism industry, particularly in New Zealand. But I would argue that this gives a false impression and I would like to detail some recent meetings on tourism shortly, particularly one that was held by the West Tamar Chamber of Commerce in my electorate of Rosevears.

It is not all gloom in the Tasmanian tourism industry. Recent figures show that while numbers of visitors to Tasmania were down, income from tourists was in fact up. Another glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel, Madam President, is the drop in the Aussie dollar in the past few days. The prediction is that our dollar is likely to be back below parity with the US dollar for many months to come and this is good news for the Tasmanian tourism industry. Not only will Tasmania appear a little cheaper for overseas visitors, but the surge in Australians heading overseas because of the strength of our dollar will slow slightly and they may head to Tasmania instead.

Those signs aside, Madam President, there is optimism and enthusiasm in the Tasmanian industry and Tasmania's unique attractions have certainly not diminished. A report by consultants for Tourism Tasmania on northern Tasmania, published in May, indicated the picture is not as bad as it is painted. Some graphs were fairly flat, but some showed steady climbs, such as interstate visitors and Tasmania's share of all interstate trips. Northern Tasmania was well above the northern interstate average for visitors aged 45 to 65 and of course they are the big spenders who carry a lot of money around at nights. Is that right, honourable member for Windermere?

Mr Dean - Yes, that is right.

Mr FINCH - I just wanted to make sure you were listening. What were the things that were most important to these visitors? How did they rate the most important things? Well, here they are: a world-class natural setting; accommodation that enhances the natural environment; and information available on the net. These categories were well above the national average for visitors to northern Tasmania. So were satisfaction ratings. In fact, Tasmania rated number 3 in Australia for very satisfied visitors and that was well ahead of the big States.

The growth predictions in the report, though, were not brilliant - 1 to 3 per cent over the coming years. But the limiting factor was outbound travel and, as I indicated earlier, the outlook there has improved in recent days.

I mentioned the West Tamar Chamber of Commerce Tourism Forum which was held on 7 September 2011 with, I might say, a wonderful keynote speaker.

Ms Forrest - Self-praise is a vain praise.

Mr FINCH - No, no, no; it was somebody else.

Madam PRESIDENT - And you have two minutes left.

Mr FINCH - The Chamber has set up the West Tamar Tourism Committee and has many ideas for furthering tourism in my electorate and beyond. I am sure the honourable member for Windermere will appreciate some of the things that came from the seminar because it featured four working groups: hospitality, food and wine sectors - that was the first category; accommodation; then attractions; and then services. They each looked very closely at problems and ideas.

The member for Windermere, no-one was looking just on my side of the Tamar. There is a strong agreement that the Tamar Valley must be treated as a whole, which includes your electorate of Windermere and the member for Launceston's electorate as well. In fact one of the recommendations from the forum was that there should be only one tourism brochure for the Tamar Valley, and there were ideas for branding and promoting the valley as a whole.

Just a few ideas and recommendations that stand out: create a Tamar Valley brand and promote it online and in magazines with links to all tourism and local government sites.

Ms Forrest - Will they put a part of the pulpmill in it, do you reckon?

Mr FINCH - I do not want to go down that track, I will another time.

Create the Tamar Valley track from Launceston to Low Head via the east Tamar, crossing the river to Greens Beach and back up the west Tamar to Launceston, and of course some of this track is already there, with the Beauty Point to Beaconsfield track recently opened. Other ideas are too numerous to detail, Madam President, but many of them will enhance the new regional tourism structure for northern Tasmania being established over the next 12 months or so. This new body is being very carefully planned and the hope is that it will rectify many mistakes of the past, such as fragmentation and duplication of effort in tourism promotion.

Forums like that held by the West Tamar Chamber of Commerce earlier this month do not represent fragmentation or duplication. There cannot be too much discussion about the tourism industry, as long as ideas are strongly communicated and there is sufficient cooperation and coordination. If we have a properly structured new regional tourism body for northern Tasmania to listen and act, we will have gone a long way towards making our tourism industry more efficient because the economy of the Tamar Valley, let me assure you, because of mitigating circumstances, does depend on it and we would like to see tourism moved up that list a little further.