Tuesday 12 June 2018

Consideration and Noting –
Tourism Industry Council Tasmania Community Survey 2018 Research Report

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

That the Tourism Industry Council Tasmania Community Survey 2018 Research Report dated May 2018 be considered and noted.

It is no surprise this latest survey on the attitude of Tasmanians to our tourism industry again placed it at the top of the list of importance.  More, 59 per cent, placed it at the top than in the 2016 survey, which was at 55 per cent.  It is apparent Tasmanians are becoming more aware of the importance of tourism to our economy.  They are also aware of its future potential, with 56 per cent of those surveyed believing tourism had the potential to make the greatest contribution to the Tasmanian economy in the next five years.  By the way, respondents named agriculture and fisheries as numbers two and three.  I have expressed before my frustration at trying to express how important tourism was to Tasmania and being told no, in importance it is around about number four or five. 

I suggest it is ahead of the other areas people were promoting and that at last people are realising it really is an economic driver now and will be into the future.

Mr Valentine - Do we have the survey content?

Mr FINCH - Yes, did I not send you a copy of the survey?  I asked for it to be sent to everyone.  Did you want a briefing?
In light of the latest figures on international visitor numbers showing an astonishing increase for Tasmania by more than 30 per cent, it was no surprise to see that a majority of those surveyed believed an increase in visitor numbers was good for the economy and it created jobs.  When asked whether they thought the current growth in business to their region was too high, about right or too low, 66 per cent of respondents said it was about right.  However, 21 per cent wanted to see more visitors.  It is interesting because in the reply to the Governor's Speech, I urged some caution in respect of not damaging the goose that lays the golden tourism egg.  It is good to see people are wanting to see more visitors.

The survey was carried out for the Tourism Industry Council Tasmania, our independent not-for-profit organisation.  It involved 1000 respondents aged older than 18.  The council provides a strategic direction and a united voice for the stable development and growth of the tourism industry.  It is important it has a good grasp of community attitudes towards tourism.  No doubt that was their driver for this particular survey.  I might highlight too the Tourism Industry Council and the work it does.  Recently in Launceston we had the Tasmanian Tourism Conference, which the council organised.  It brought around 400 delegates together to explore what it means to be better together.  If Tasmania's tourism industry is to be the best in the world, we need to work with local communities to deliver tourism products and experiences.  It was a very good conference with a range of speakers from interstate, overseas and Tasmania.  They converged for a two-day event at the Country Club in Launceston, for a range of workshops and keynote addresses. 
It was important for 400 delegates from around Tasmania to get together, to network, to meet people and exchange ideas, to learn new ways and what is going on in the tourism industry. 

I salute the Tourism Industry Council Tasmania and the work they do.  That tourism industry conference was so important for the development of our tourism.

The CEO of Tourism Northern Tasmania, Chris Griffin , has written to me to say it is crucial for the tourism industry to be aware of community attitudes to increasing our visitor numbers so it can develop socially and environmentally sustainable practices.  This survey is important in providing guidance.

Chris Griffin says it is important the industry understands local attitudes to the seasonality of tourism numbers, especially between the months of October and March.  It is essential that there is a plan for the future which could see the present rate of growth to Tasmania continue to increase.  He says that peak tourism ebbs and flows in different places in Tasmania and at different times of the year and the industry needs to understand how the community views this.

My wife is in Queensland for a couple of months of dog-sitting duties for our son, who is on his honeymoon.
Carole is talking to a lot of Queensland people about Tasmania, and almost everybody is saying, 'We want to come to Tasmania.'  Carole and I were saying that before we encourage too many to come here, we need to make sure our infrastructure is in place and we have the facilities to cater for the increase.  This survey, and people like Chris Griffin and Sam Denmead , whom I am going to refer to, believe it is good to work on that increase.

Chris Griffin says that as mitigation approaches we need built infrastructure in key locations like Cradle Mountain and Freycinet to accommodate volume visitation in sustainable ways, promoting all seasons of the year aligned with their visitor appeals and introducing methods to disperse visitors across a broader range of regional communities who wish to welcome more visitors.  It is not as dire as it was some time ago when the regions were getting very little of what was occurring in the major centres of Launceston and Hobart.  That, fortunately, has changed.

Chris also said that by comparing this latest data to baseline research conducted in 2009, it is clear more Tasmanians are aware of the importance of the industry and more of them support it.

It is a very positive result for tourism, but there were some negatives.  Some respondents thought there was a negative effect on road infrastructure and congestion, on prices for locals, including housing and on the environment.  However, these were small percentages.  They obviously did not travel along the Brooker Highway when I came in this morning.  At 8 a.m. there was congestion.  After all the work that has been done and the money spent at Goodwood to remove the roundabout and bring the traffic through more efficiently, I was gobsmacked at the road congestion right back to Berriedale.  I can imagine a tourist getting caught up in that and saying, 'I came from Melbourne and Sydney to get away from this sort of thing'.  It really is a problem for Hobart.

A significant group of respondents believe public infrastructure needs improving.  I would not argue with that.  In her submission, Sam Denmead of Green Hat Tourism says -

Clearly the impact of increasing tourism numbers is more prevalent in the south than in the north of the state. 

The north and north east are not experiencing dramatic changes to the numbers of tourists in their area affecting their way of life. 

Many of the respondents have noted tourism in the north is not of significant size to bother them, yet. 
Only a very small number of Tasmanian residents expressed concern about the rate of growth (8%), a clear majority were either ok with the rate of growth or thought it was not high enough. 

In the north, there are even fewer concerns, and it appears residents welcome and encourage the thought of increased visitor numbers.

It certainly seems evident tourism as an industry in the north is regarded highly among residents as a growth industry with a lot of potential to provide employment, and positive spinoffs for locals in the form of more money in the economy, a brighter economic future, and improvements in infrastructure. 
Increased spending on infrastructure serves to not only satisfy locals, it serves the needs of visitors to the area too.
From Sam's experience as president of the Launceston Tamar Valley Tourism Association, our members are happy to see investment in the local area on infrastructure projects including new hotels.  Witness the opening of the new Silo Hotel, developed by Errol Stewart - it is quite superb and really up there in respect of product - and the improvement of public spaces and amenities highlighting the North Bank development.  Those amenities are fantastic.

It is a strongly held belief this investment will benefit both residents, and visitors alike and should be continued to be pursued.  Yes, there is some expression of concern about the ability of our roads to cater for increased traffic; however, the north is not feeling this yet, unlike Hobart in the south.
Just underlining the point I was making before -
The potential of 'overtourism' is most definitely on the radar of the TICT, and operator alike, who are well aware of the impacts overtourism has had on other places like Barcelona for example, where the rapid rise in tourist numbers has been detrimental to the health of the city.

Sam says -
I personally can't see that ever happening in Tasmania as long as we have a government that is involved in tourism at all levels of government and isn't reactive to opportunities without serious thought and contemplation of the impacts, but are instead proactive about developments that could attract vast numbers of visitors. 

While tourism numbers are increasing faster than was anticipated 10 years ago, they are still not anywhere near a level that should elicit concern, as long as things progress the way they currently are, with consideration to all major developments, and planning around access and infrastructure all occurring in synergy with each other.

Launceston can and will learn from the way Hobart has changed and developed over the past 10-20 years, as this is the path Launceston will likely take as Hobart becomes full and dispersal is required around the state to house the overflow of visitors.  As Launceston builds more and more hotels and increases supply, demand will keep up and the city and surrounds will benefit from the increase in both leisure and business traffic, but as the numbers at this point are still quite low and very manageable, the growth would have to be incredibly fast for it not to be managed well.

I thank Sam Denmead for those thoughts.  She has been very close to the tourism industry over many years now and hers were strong observations.  A significant group of respondents believe public infrastructure needs improving.  I certainly would not argue with that, but will that be the case forever?  This latest Tourism Industry Council Tasmania survey reinforces the perception that tourism is becoming more important to Tasmania every year, and that most Tasmanians regard it in a favourable light.  I see no reason why this will not continue.  I thank the TICT and congratulate it on this survey, not just resting on its laurels, but having the survey provide evidence that shows tourism is on the right track and people are responding the way we want in the numbers we want.

[6.10 p.m.]
Ms ARMITAGE (Launceston) - Mr President, I thank the member for Rosevears for bringing this forward.  The latest report from the Tourism Industry Council Tasmania has no real surprises in it and confirms what most of us here know about the importance of tourism to our state.  In the year ending December 2017, 1.26 million visitors were welcomed to Tasmania with a goal of 1.5 million visitors for the year ending 2020.  We had a record $2.3 billion visitor spend in 2016-17, with a 2020 goal of $2.47 billion. Like the member for Rosevears, I found the conference earlier in the year very interesting and also later on the evening at the Velo vineyard where a lot of people came together and certainly told stories about Launceston, Tasmania and the whole tourism gambit, and why people were there and the attractions Tasmania offered.

Of the 1000 people surveyed, it was reassuring to see the percentage of people seeing tourism as the state's most important industry as increasing once again to 59 per cent.  Hopefully this enthusiasm for tourism will be shared by people worldwide to help promote this beautiful state we are fortunate enough to live in.  According to recent government figures, the number of people visiting Launceston has risen by 12 per cent over the last year, resulting in approximately 570 000 visitors to the city at September 2017.  With the re-establishment of the Penny Royal complex and with the planned new light show event at the Cataract Gorge, as well as the development of the north tourist drive and the new hotels we have already - we have, as the member for Rosevears mentioned, the wonderful Silo Hotel and the fabulous new restaurant with it and other proposed hotels.

Mr Finch - I was impressed with Errol Stewart on the night, saying what he wanted to do with the new restaurant was to match the standards of Stillwater and the Mud Bar, which is terrific.  He was not saying he wanted to better them, but to match the bar at the height they have, which was terrific.

Ms ARMITAGE - It was, and he also spoke about how he has gone around to a variety of different farms in the region making sure the produce is local - the meat is local.  That is really great.  He is not bringing food in from the mainland, he is looking at local producers and showcasing what they can offer.

Ms Rattray - He acknowledged most of them being there on that evening.

Ms ARMITAGE - Yes, they were invited - 1100 people.  Hopefully this number will keep on growing so we can show the world how much Launceston and surrounds has to offer.  It is interesting to see the perceived prominent negative impact people identified is road infrastructure and increased congestion.  Road congestion is already an issue in parts of Launceston and obviously Hobart, and if the number of vehicles on the road continues to increase, it will only become more of an issue unless something is done in the meantime.  However, it is minor compared to other states and we need to appreciate that we are very fortunate in Tasmania.

Another negative effect of the increase in visitor numbers cited in the report was the perceived increased prices for locals, including housing.  One would have thought the flip side of this issue is a positive for those who wish to sell their houses.  I see lack of rental accommodation due to Airbnb was also mentioned as a negative.  Obviously this aspect will be explored during our select committee inquiry on short-stay accommodation.  Another negative mentioned was that if people see the state and like it, they will move here and stay.  That was mentioned by the member for Rosevears.  Surely this would benefit the local industry and economy?  Of course we are all aware the state Government with its 'You In A Year' social media and online campaign for Sydneysiders, spruiking the advantages of relocating to Tasmania, the campaign showcasing Tasmania's lifestyle and employment opportunities as well as lower house prices, part of the Government's drive to get the state's population up to 650 000 by 2050.  As with any discussion about tourism, there will be those who are against it as they are happy with the current status quo and are not supportive of change.  There are others who are all for it as they can see the bigger picture for the economy and the state.  This is reflected in the 3 per cent of people in the south who saw the cruise ships as a negative thing for the state.

Tourism should be all about balance - promoting the state to bring in more tourists but making sure the reasons tourists are visiting the state are protected and maintained.  This aspect was loosely reflected in the survey results, where 3 per cent of those surveyed believed there was a threat of overcommercialising Tasmania and negatively affecting the state's character. 

More Tasmanians per capita are employed in tourism than any other state or territory, with 18 900 direct and 19 000-plus indirect jobs in 2015-16. 

In closing, I congratulate the TICT on compiling this report and once again giving us a snapshot into the tourism industry and how it is perceived in this state.

[6.16 p.m.]
Mrs HISCUTT (Montgomery - Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council) - Mr President, the Hodgman Liberal Government is committed to growing Tasmania's visitor economy for the benefit of all Tasmanians.  Tourism is one of Tasmania's greatest competitive strengths and results of the TICT's latest community sentiment survey demonstrate strong support for the Government's commitment to grow the sector.  The survey shows that tourism was overwhelmingly identified by Tasmanians as being the greatest contributor to the state's economy, compared to other industries.  Looking ahead, 56 per cent of Tasmanians believe the tourism industry has the greatest potential to make the biggest contribution to our economy over the next five years.

Tourism far outranks traditional economic heavyweights like agriculture and construction.  Importantly, when asked about the negative impacts caused by an increase in visitor numbers to Tasmania, the most common response was that tourism has no negative impacts.  The results also show the vast majority of Tasmanians believe the level of tourism activity in this state is either about right or too low.  These results are a strong endorsement of the Government's vision for the Tasmanian industry.

Tourism employs more than 36 000 Tasmanians and contributes $2.79 billion a year to our economy.  In saying this, the Government is committed to getting the balance right between having a thriving visitor economy and protecting the very experiences and places that bring people to Tasmania in the first place.  While some would like to completely lock up Tasmania and throw away the key, there are options for sensible and appropriate developments that showcase our unique wilderness to even more visitors. 

We are committed to taking tourism to the next level with a $4 million commitment for the events attraction fund that will draw tens of thousands more visitors to Tasmania by actively targeting and securing mass participation events.  We know these events deliver the greatest returns for investment because people who travel to Tasmania for events tend to stay longer and spend more.  

We are also spending another $12 million to market Tasmania to the world, promoting established and emerging unique experiences to key markets.  We have committed $1.4 million to new drive journeys, a $72 million road package to support the visitor economy and an additional $6.8 million to take our hospitality industry to the next level.

I thank the member for bringing this motion forward.  The Government notes the report.

[6.19 p.m.]
Ms RATTRAY (McIntyre) - Mr President, I congratulate, along with others, the member for Rosevears for bringing this to the attention of members and putting it on the Notice Paper of the Legislative Council.  Any of these surveys are always of interest, particularly when you are asking the locals what they think about what is happening in their community.

I will make a couple of points.  I know members have already touched on the percentages and the like.  It is imperative we get the infrastructure right, particularly for the driving visitors to our state. 

I do not want to bang on about it again and again but I will.  That Great Eastern Drive is still an impediment to a safe and enjoyable experience when you drive from Launceston down on the east coast to the south of the state.  I know we are spending a load of money through the centre, but that is where you get the spectacular views.  The member for Prosser indicated this morning that she had the most spectacular part of the state.  I beg to differ.  We all have a good patch.  It is lucky I could not interject this morning or this afternoon.  It was great to see the passion of the new member when she said that. 

It is really important that we have that infrastructure upgrade.  We have talked about it for far too long, and we need some action on that $72 million.  Those lay-by areas and realigning some of those bad corners would make a big difference to that motoring experience.  That infrastructure is key. 

The congestion on the road is not as big an issue on that particular drive as what it might be in and around some of the more heavily populated areas.  It is not the volume of traffic.  It is the road conditions that are leading to people not having what I would suggest is the best possible experience when they come to Tasmania.  It still means that when they see that small distance on the map and think they are going to be able to get from Launceston to Bicheno in an hour-and-a‑half, you just cannot do it.  It is not possible.

Ms Forrest - Imagine how grumpy they are when they turn up from Hobart Airport to Strahan.  They think they are going to get a taxi.

Ms RATTRAY - That is right.  There are still those issues we need to deal with when we are talking about growing the tourism aspect for our state.  I know how important it is.

Another issue that I want to raise is that we are starting to spread the eggs in the basket across Tasmania.  We have had some significant investments, not only in quality accommodation in the north of the state but some of the mountain bike tracks and the things that are happening there.  Sadly, I can tell you that The Hub, one of the integral parts of the Blue Derby mountain bike track, has shut down.  There simply is not the business to sustain a business like that, particularly over the winter months.  We are not sure where the future lies for that.  It is up for sale if anyone has about half a million and wants to have a lifestyle change.

Mr Valentine - What services do they provide?

Ms RATTRAY - We have lost pizza and pasta at The Hub, which was great for people at the end of the day, and even locals were using that.  It was a great place to take people.  One of the two local pubs, the Dorset at the bottom, has some new people in it who have revamped it.  They are starting small, which is great.  You are better off to start small and build yourself up rather than trying to go in with a huge investment and then wonder where your customers are going to come from.

There is just that word of caution about what is happening around Tasmania and what the expectation is, particularly from people on the mainland, about how much money they are going to make in a very short space of time.  We know that in Tasmania things are sometimes a bit slower in the winter, and they need to be able to spread out their expectations for their business.

I support the motion.  I support what is happening in Tasmania with the tourism sector but also think that we need to maybe put the brakes on a bit and stop to think about the infrastructure to support some of these more outlying adventure experiences that are taking place. 

I support the motion.

[6.25 p.m.]
Ms FORREST (Murchison) - Mr President, I wish to make a brief contribution.  Many members have touched on the points that are relevant in this survey.  I will talk in a moment on how many people think that tourism is too high, about right, too low or unsure.

The report does not say who was surveyed.  It talks about the people but it would be interesting to know whether these people are engaged in the tourism industry, are tourists, or are local people who are not involved in the tourism industry.  I would say a fair number of people who are involved in the tourism industry were part of the survey.  I say that because in the breakdown on page 20 the north and north-west, which I will focus on, only 3 per cent said it was too high, 60 per cent said it was about right, but 32 per cent - the most in the state - said it was too low.  For many tourism operators in my electorate it is too low.  The benefit is not being shared equally across the state.

MONA is fantastic and draws many people to the state.  Unfortunately, some of the benefit does not flow much further than the Bridgewater Bridge.  That does not mean that we give up.  As the member for McIntyre said, we need to make the best of the opportunities, particularly over the winter.  It is no good if tourists turn up in the winter and everything is closed.  

I commend the Government for their initiatives in increasing events funding.  Many of our festivals and events are held in winter.  Dark Mofo is a classic example, Junction Arts Festival is held in September in Launceston, and Unconformity is in Queenstown and it is not in the peak season.  It is great to be able to fund more of these events that bring many people to different parts of the state, not just Hobart.  Even for the businesses in those areas, if it is a one-off festival that lasts two or three days, there is a full‑on assault on the town and then everyone has gone.  So that is only one part of the solution.  We really need the balance that has been talked about.

The Leader had a veiled swipe at the Greens for wanting to lock up everything, but I remember when we were debating forestry legislation - dare I raise that matter - that we needed to try to coexist.  You have forestry, mining and tourism coexisting.  The Greens at the time, well before anyone else was talking about it, said that tourism would be the next big economic driver.  Whether you like it or not that is the fact.  There was some discussion about how we could turn all the forestry workers into baristas, which got stupid.  We need to give credit where credit is due.  It was raised by the Greens and pooh-poohed at the time.

Ms Rattray - I do not think they were necessarily pooh-poohed, it is just that people believed there needed to be a range of industries.

Ms FORREST - Yes, if you look at some of the media at the time they were told, 'No, you're wrong.  We have the forestry, mining and agriculture industries, they are the future'.  Anyway we have moved on from there and we have all realised that most of our industries are cyclical.  Mining has witnessed a downturn in the mineral prices.  That is cyclical and it will probably change.

Ms Rattray - All commodities are.

Ms FORREST - Yes.  The dairy industry has its ups and downs, all of them do.  Growth in forestry is definitely in plantations.  We are not seeing any growth in the native forest.  What we really need is a long-term plan that includes infrastructure planning.  The complaints are about infrastructure.  The member for McIntyre talked about the - what is it called?

Ms Rattray - The Great Eastern Drive, really the East Coast Drive.

Ms FORREST - Yes, the Tasman Highway up the east coast.

Ms Rattray - From Launceston through to the Hobart‑side of Orford.

Ms FORREST - The Tasman highway up the east coast.  You should drive it in the summer just for the experience.  Many cyclists want to use that road.  It is dangerous because there are no white lines on the side and no sealed shoulders on much of it.  I have seen footage on social media of a cyclist being hit by the mirror of a campervan.  There is a need to plan, when doing road upgrades, to put in a cycle track or pathway.  Eventually you will get a continuous pathway, but it takes a long-term infrastructure vision to do this.  We know where the problem areas are.  We need to cater for campervans during summer.  The west coast is the same.

Much money has been spent on the Murchison Highway and it is fabulous.  There are now some places to pass.  Most people are willing to wait until you get to the next one, which is still some distance apart.

Ms Rattray - As long as people know where they are.

Ms FORREST - Yes, but they are few and far between still.  There are a couple of straights now that give you a chance to pass.  It is much better than what it was.  We should instruct our campervan travellers not to travel in packs, but to leave space between each other, so that people going about their business can get past.  Some drivers pull over, but many of them do not.

I was also interested to note that on page 16 of the report there has been a significant increase of 13 per cent of people saying there are negative impacts.  The key movement at the top of the list says no negative impacts, but there is negative 13 per cent.  That is negative, that is bad.  More people are saying there are negative impacts from the growth of tourism. 

That comes back to the importance of long-term planning and making sure we have the infrastructure right, we have the other settings right, and we do it in a way that avoids the problems that the member for Rosevears talked about like in Barcelona and parts of Thailand.  You do not have to go very far around the world to see where places are being trashed.  Iceland is the same.  The Government must be willing to look at this in a critical way and not just say the more the merrier without the proper planning.

It is a valuable survey of the thoughts of people around Tasmania, but we need to take note of that negative comment about more negative impacts.  Double negatives always make a positive for those who may need a maths lesson here.

Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Mr President, it is interesting the member for Murchison mentioned that it is all right for MONA, it is all right for Hobart.  People come to see MONA, Port Arthur or Cradle Mountain.  Then they realise when they get here all that Tasmania has to offer.  About 60 per cent of visitors to Tasmania are repeat visitors.  I have just checked with Luke Martin, the CEO of TICT, and he said he cannot find a comparable destination anywhere with such a high rate of repeat visitation.  This is where our regions benefit.  They come to see the big attractions, but then they look around and see all that Tasmania has to offer.  They often come back for a longer visit when they realise that you cannot just zap around in three or four days.  There are so many attractions and so much to see and that is why people keep coming back to enjoy more of what we have.

In closing, I will reiterate something I highlighted in my reply to the Governor's Speech.  I talked about the fact the Premier is the minister for Tourism and at the tourism conference in Launceston, about the connection, the pride, the feeling that those operators have a connection through to the Government to the head.  The Premier is their minister for Tourism, so they have their way through and communicate well backwards and forwards to the Premier.  I am sure he is proud to be the minister for Tourism and the opportunities that presents for the Government, for the economy of Tasmania.  Thank you to those who have spoken.  I move the motion be noted.

Motion agreed to