Thursday 21 August 2014

Hansard of the Legislative Council

The Tamar Valley Brand

Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Mr President, there was a time when branding meant putting identification marks on cattle, or you had those household brand products like shoe polish, soap and the like. They were often much-loved brands which inspired long-term loyalty. Whether we like it or not, we contrive brands for states, tourism regions and a diversity of other things. It is no bad thing because it helps us to find the qualities and advantages of something that we want to present publicly. Good branding can create an instant image, like 'Tasmania on a plate' which is being used now, or 'Clean and Green'.

The West Tamar part of my electorate is going through a branding process at this moment. The process, led by the West Tamar Council, is defining how the West Tamar is best perceived by wouldbe tourists. It is identifying qualities like our stunning, scenic Tamar Valley - the vineyards, the green hills, and the already established tourism infrastructure, including restaurants and accommodation.

But it is an urgent process. The opening paragraphs of the document titled 'The Tamar Valley Brand' reads thus -

The West Tamar and Tamar Valley has seen its tourism footprint and profile diminish slowly over a decade - what was once a must visit destination in 20042009 has gradually waned with visitation exceeding 120 000 now down to approximately 76 000, a drop of around 35 per cent.

Marketing and promotion of the region outside of Launceston has been largely left to individual operators with some exceptions - the Tamar Valley Wine Route, Beaconsfield Mine and Heritage Centre and the Tamar Valley resort still marketing aggressively.

What became apparent is that while we have the products and attractions visitors would like to see, we had lost the brand or feeling associated with the Tamar Valley. Visitors to Tasmania expect a clean green and pristine offering, products in the arts, crafts, markets, food and wine, natural attractions, gardens, history and museums are all sought after however, the icons remain the catalyst for the visitor to decide to travel. Salamanca, MONA, Port Arthur, Cradle Mountain, Freycinet, Mount Wellington are major drawcards.

The Tamar Valley document written by the West Tamar Council's tourism development officer, Damien Blackwell, was partly the basis for a forum I attended on 14 August with industry representatives and operators. Three words underpin the West Tamar brand, as we heard that night - refine, engage, delight. But there is much more to the brand than that. There is a new website being developed along with videos, and a total engagement with social media. Damien Blackwell says that visitor behaviour is indicating there is a whole new demographic that is looking beyond the major cities. They research and make their own decisions and are looking to discover for themselves, rather than be told. Would-be visitors' tools of choice are websites, social media and specific tourism qualifiers, such as TripAdvisor and Expedia.

The Tamar Valley is able to offer the products associated with the Tasmanian brand. We have nature, we have history, we have food and wine, and we have high-end accommodation, arts, and an experience that allows connection and engagement, not just contrived or concocted tourism. However, it faces the same problem as anyone else wanting to sell a product - creating an image, a brand, and then broadcasting a message as widely as possible.

The West Tamar is going to adopt the playful attribute of the northern regional tourism brand, with the addition of naturalness. This complements an alliance with the regional brand position engineered by Tourism Northern Tasmania, and it also matches the 'Beyond the Scenery' campaign in place with Tourism Tasmania - quirky, offbeat and original.

Damien Blackwell says the challenge was to find the Tamar Valley's niche in the state and national tourism context, to find a direction, and to identify that which sets West Tamar apart from other tourist destinations and wine regions particularly, nationally. He says delivery of an on-brand, talk-worthy experience is critical, and developing this with the industry and leveraging off an already excellent award-winning product, will help achieve excellence and consistency.

It is obvious that engagement with local operators will be critical. The aim is to stimulate further investment in infrastructure and tourism products to meet demand in line with visitor growth. Mr Blackwell gave an example of that river valley in the south - the Huon. I want to draw the attention of the former Mayor of the Huon Valley who, no doubt, will take a lot of credit.

Mr Armstrong - He is still the Mayor.

Mr FINCH - Still the Mayor. Of course, keep taking the credit. The Huon Valley undertook a major project in tourism about the time when visitation in the Tamar Valley was quite static. There was heavy investment in marketing, industry collaboration and stakeholder engagement. The local tourism body, the council and the industry took the step to invest time and resources in tourism. The result we have seen shows its success - Pennicott Wilderness Cruises, Huon Valley food trail, the Bruny Island food explosion, Peppermint Bay Provedore, Grandvewe Sheep Cheese, Peppermint Bay Cruise, Huon Valley Mushrooms, Tahune Airwalk and the major winner, Gourmet Farmer.

The Tamar Valley does not duplicate these attractions but we have equivalents of our own. Our process is an holistic one to refine our brand, engage our operators, delight our visitors and accelerate word of mouth, both in person and online. I am looking to accelerate my wordage. It is important for my electorate that this approach succeeds.