Image for Tourism in Tasmania is a failure

Tourism is in a difficult situation.

The dollar is up, making it expensive for overseas visitors and our home grown industry is controlled by self interested hacks.

For the past ten years Tourism has been controlled by the Tasmanian Tourism Industry Council (TICT), effectively owned and controlled by Federal Hotels.

The members, although appearing to rotate regularly always contain a membership core of Federal Hotels consultants, owners, beneficiaries or employees.

Federal Hotels owns the major icons; that you may remember when Tourism was re-jigged by Premier Bacon et al, it was decided to concentrate on four major icons; Cradle Mountain, Port Arthur, Freycinet and Salamanca Place.

In the succeeding years Federal Hotels has managed to acquire a major financial and management interest in the first three of these icons. We are the ones who pay to market these icons through all the recent failed advertising campaigns. We paid for the Abt railway, millions of tax dollars spent on this project and it was sold to Federal Hotels for a dollar.

Yet, where are the backpackers that are ‘like a plague on the mainland’. Where are the adventure holidays that have built the New Zealand Tourism industry?

It is important to look hard at NZ because of its similarities’ with Tasmania as an end destination. In other words this is the end of the line place that people visit before they turn around to head home. 

Have any of you heard of Byron Bay being the most Eastern place in Australia or Cape York the most Northern. Where is the most Southern, has any reader out there in Tourism land ever heard of anyone heading to the most southern place in Australia, right here in your backyard? These marketing opportunities are avoided by the TICT, either through planned ignorance, bloody mindness or self interest. The fact is the people who back-pack or travel for the sake of it or those who seek adventure, although high spenders on food, recreation, wine and wilderness, just don’t gamble.

The incestuous nature of Tourism and its controlling bodies is emphasized by the continual hiring of the same people for the jobs available. The recent appointment by Federal Hotels of Daniel Hanna, ex-secretary of the Tourism Industry Council and before that the Australian Hotels Association is a case in point of moving deck chairs around this Titanic Tourism Industry.

Daniel Hanna pointed out in a letter to the Mercury that Tourism in the past 20 years had grown from 420,000 tourists to 560,000; this is approximately a third of the growth of the mainland and by any definition a failure.

The failure is the responsibility of all the board members of all the tourism Councils around the State. The current person who is the long term chairman of the TICT, has also been a paid consultant of Federal Hotels, likewise a long termer controls the Government body running Tourism.

The two of them, plus Hanna, should admit responsibility for this failure in Tourism. The Government Tourism body starting to admit its advertising campaigns have failed is prescient for them, yet it is a twenty year failure brought on by cronyism and mis-spent opportunities.

The immediate need for re-vitalising the industry and tearing it away from the current controlling bodies can have a no worse outcome than is currently forecasted.

A number of opportunities exist beside the backpacker and adventure tourism, yet while the gambling lobby and paid consultants to Federal Hotels control tourism expect nothing. I believe a good start would be to dissolve the department of Tourism and distribute half of the $60 million spent on this department to the small business owners and operators throughout the State, so that they can re-organise themselves organically into their own regions. The Government needs to keep the rest of the money to pay for its other economic travesties.

Even contemplating that Tourism exists in three regions is a stupid twentieth Century idea and has little relationship to marketing through the internet. It has little to do with the East or West Coast, wine marketing and adventure holidays that use the whole state. The idea of regions, is a tired idea of divide and conquer, give the locals their own committee and some dollars and they won’t interfere in the big picture, that is attracting pensioners to come gaming.

The tourists we have bear no relationship to the Conde Nast traveller and when I hear our Tourism industry bleating about Tasmania being listed in the top ten of something, I think about travelling overseas and saying I am Tasmanian and the very first comment is ‘are you a devil’.

The relevance of this is that these lists are irrelevant and meaningless; if we can’t at least follow a successful model like New Zealand, stop pretending and just state it.

This is a tired industry in need of competition, investment and innovation, not more of the same.

First published: 2011-02-04 04:20 AM