Image for Losers! Ditch the old ways of thinking ...

In the period between 2003-2010, there was much debate about the conflicts between forestry and tourism futures for Tasmania. Pro-forestry representatives of Labor and Liberal parties would recite, smugly, the rhetorical question “What would we do with all the displaced forestry workers?  Retrain them to serve lattes?”

Losers!  Their entrenched attitude, that somehow forestry jobs were real and solid jobs, whilst tourism jobs were uncertain and flaky, has constrained our thinking about possible futures for Tasmania for decades. 

Sadly, we seem all set now to re-enter a new myopic age, with industrial forestry dragging on the public resources and public purse, with the promise of providing the real and solid backbone for Tasmania, forever.  Notably, it’s the same set of losers who are backing this promise.

A recent article by Andrew Jones in the Mercury ( Time to trip cruise control ), threw down some interesting challenges to what kind of tourism infrastructure Tasmania could consider to invest in.  Andrew runs a successful travel business in Tasmania – Andrew Jones Travel.  I have never met him and do not know his views on forestry or any other subject.

Are his ideas pie-in-the sky?  If so, how much more so than the plan for a multi-billion dollar pulp mill? 

Trends are changing rapidly and we need to reset our thinking.

Who could have estimated the success of Mona and its impact on brand Tasmania?  It has put a massive charge back into the tourism battery.

But for me, Mona is not the stand-out. An even earlier example of the transforming power of a tourism innovation is the development of the toilet block in the park at Campbell Town ...

People stopped for convenience, then came Zeps for the recharge; now Campbell Town is the place where everyone stops.  It shows that you don’t need a multi-million dollar budget to succeed, but you do need to understand your market and be ready to build on early success.

Cruise ship operators have discovered Tasmania as Jones says. 

The unique advantage for Tasmania is that within an hour of the dock, there are hundreds of unique and different experiences for the passengers to choose from. 

What are they?  How do you get there?  What can you eat when you arrive?  How do we apply the Campbell Town experience?

Wotif founder, Graeme Wood, co-owner of the Triabunna chip mill site, has recently announced plans for a new commercial and tourism hub on the site. ( Mercury: New life stirs at chip mill ).  It’s only 45 minutes from Hobart airport to Triabunna.  How could we let day visitors from Melbourne experience the wonderful cruising on the East Coast?  A day trip from Melbourne to the Fairy Penguins of Phillip Island takes at least 9 hours and its boring, but thousands of visitors do the tour.

Does anyone remember that 5 Tasmanian convict era sites are now listed as World Heritage?:  http://www.heritage.tas.gov.au/convict_sites.html 

What are we seriously doing to build this unique advantage into the brand offering? A website just doesn’t cut it.

There is a tidal wave of tourists building in China.  Witness the number of Chinese tourists travelling around Tasmania last week. 

Does anyone know the dates of the main holiday periods in China?  Interestingly, they are counter-seasonal with our traditional tourism peaks and could be instrumental in helping carry-over the winter curse.  Where are the bilingual signs and tourist ambassadors to welcome these visitors?

I do not suggest that we pursue only a tourism future and ignore other industries.  But if we are to invest public funds in public infrastructure, there must be an economic return for Tasmania. As most of our customers in any industry come from outside of Tasmania, those infrastructure investment decisions must also be based on a coherent strategy where the Tasmanian brand is pivotal.

If I had to spend the next $100 million of public funds to support emerging industries, I doubt I would spend it on a pulp mill or plantations.  As for those imagined forestry baristas, why not?  A hot latte on a crisp morning, authentically served in a majestic forest 30 minutes from Hobart would drag me in.

Well done Andrew Jones, I say!

*Ben Quin is the Managing Director of an Australian engineering and agribusiness company with interests in Australia and China. He lives at Triabunna.

Last week on Tasmanian Times: The Billion Dollar Opportunity

Mercury: Tasmania in great position to take advantage of top five emerging growth sectors in national economy:  Delloite’s Positioning for Prosperity report, released today, found gas, tourism, agribusiness, international education and wealth management were the industry sectors most likely to take over as economic drivers in the wake of the mining boom.

ABC: Discussion paper outlines Tasmania’s freight challenges Peter Brohier has written extensively on The Question of Bass Strait on Tasmanian Times: Here is his Q&A

ABC: Trans-Pacific Partnership: Giant free-trade deal to link Asia-Pacific

ABC: Sparks fly over NBN as Visionstream urged to ‘come out of hiding’

ABC: Three Capes Walk on track but short of funds

Chief Executive Officer, Chartered Accountants Australia, Lee White: Tax sustainability key to Tasmania’s success

Jan Davis, TFGA CEO: The five super-growth sectors Deloitte used a surfing analogy to explain that, whilst the mining wave continues to deliver prosperity for Australia, albeit at a declining rate, it has now past us and is heading into the shore. They have identified that the next set of super-growth waves we need to ride are agribusiness, gas, tourism, international education and wealth management. The report suggests that exceptional growth in these five sectors could add an additional $25 billion to Australia’s GDP over the next 20 years. That is a boost of about 1% to our economy, which is turning over $2.6 trillion in today’s dollars.

Jan Davis: TFGA says GM moratorium should continue, for the moment “Within our sector, there are producers who consider the moratorium a marketing advantage. Others are concerned that the industry is losing productivity and competitiveness due to the inability to access GMO technologies that arguably could enhance current production outcomes and methodologies,” she said. “Tasmania’s brand is seen as distinctive, associated with premium food products within the domestic Australian market and, in some cases, internationally. There, nevertheless, is skepticism surrounding the actual benefits delivered to farmers by the clean, green concept. This skepticism is particularly relevant to the perceived market advantage and price premiums in remaining GMO-free.”