Tasmanian Times

Economy

Tasmania verdant with Green tourism

“Tasmania, and Tasmanians, should stop cutting down trees & digging stuff up, and develop tourism, particularly eco-tourism, to employ those whose jobs are lost to environment-friendly policies” seems to be a fair expression of an oft-asserted claim by The Greens and their supporters.

But is it realistic? Feasible? Achievable?

Essentially, there are two kinds of tourism serving two quite distinct markets: cultural / heritage tourism and R&R tourism.

Cultural / heritage tourism, including eco-tourism and adventure or Xtreme tourism, pulls travellers to places like Paris & Venice, Machu Picchu & the Pyramids, the Highlands of Scotland & the jungles of the Amazon, Stonehenge & Great Zimbabwe, Yosemite & Kruger national parks, Britain’s stately homes, the chateaux of the Loire, Raj-era princely palaces in India & Tuscan hill towns.

Relaxation and entertainment tourism will attract visitors to Las Vegas and the increasing number of Disneylands, Hollywood & the Riviera, to Aspen & St Moritz, and to various Coasts from the Costa Brava through Surfers Paradise to Acapulco & Copacabana & Goa & Kuta & Phuket to La Jolla SD.

Pull factors here include some or all of sun, sand, surf, and snow, as well as, to a greater or lesser degree, that other eternal s-letter attraction. But especially sun.

Now the Big Question for anyone talking up ‘Tasmanian Tourism Leading the World’: what world-beaters, or even world-equals, have we got to offer?

You’re cultured Europeans interested in visiting pre-historic sites, and you logon to, say –

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_archaeological_sites_sorted_by_country

and you are faced with a choice: Stonehenge or the Brighton bypass diggings.

Or you’re cultured North Americans deciding between Britain’s stately homes and the chateaux of the Loire or our three-and-a-half Georgian villages and couple of convict-built bridges.

Or you are a Melburnian family looking to spend some time away from the cold & rain in the mid-winter school holidays: sun on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast or more cold & rain on our Bass Coast?

Or you’re cashed-up, energetic foreigners and it’s hiking you want: pick one from America’s Colorado Trail, Germany’s Black Forest hikes, Britain’s Hadrian’s Wall Path, Italy’s Lake Como Wayfarers Trail – or our Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park track?

Or you’re into extreme tourism, which Wikipedia reports as “a growing business in the countries of the former Soviet Union (Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, etc.) and in South American countries like Peru, Chile and Argentina. The mountainous and rugged terrain of northern Pakistan has also developed into a popular extreme tourism location”.

So what’s to stop it becoming a “growing business” here – p’raps a few decades as a penal colony is small beer compared with Russia’s long history of tyrannical oppression, or maybe our puny Mt Ossa at 1617m being a mere hillock to the peaks of the Himalayas, the Andes and the Caucasus?

Is it that we just don’t have it? We just don’t measure up?

Because they’re not picking us, judging from “TASMANIA’S national parks are suffering from a slump in visitor numbers . . . over a six-year period from 2004-05, Cradle Mountain had a 12.4 per cent drop in numbers, Lake St Clair had a 24 per cent drop, Mount Field was down by 18.5 per cent and Maria Island numbers were down by an alarming 43.5 per cent” in –

http://www.examiner.com.au/news/local/news/environment/visitors-shun-national-parks/2243469.aspx

Or you’re traditional backpackers on the cheap, do you straightaway think “Tasmania”?

Not if this is accurate: “TASMANIA’S backpacker industry is on the slide at a time when backpacker visitors to Australia are increasing” in –

http://www.themercury.com.au/article/2010/11/14/185901_travel.html

Or is it ruins which turn you on? Well, prioritise the following: the Valley of the Kings, Ephesus, the Flavian Amphitheatre, the Great Wall, Machu Picchu, Mohenjo Daro, – or the ruins of a 19th century penitentiary at Port Arthur.

Is it the reality that we are too far away from where tourists come from, that we don’t have what they want, that they have to bypass so many better destinations en route?

And is this mooted ‘tourism future’ just another manifestation of our cargo cult mindset? Build it and they will come and look, walk, jump, view, gawk, laze, paddle, swim, and above all – pay?

NB: none of the above is meant to in any way diss the efforts and enterprise of our tourism operators, or to pass any moral or other value judgements on any type of law-abiding tourism.

And the writer has enjoyed many features of Tasmanian tourism over the last four decades.

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7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Simon Warriner

    August 10, 2011 at 1:31 am

    As someone whose relatives export tourism to Japan from NZ in the form of sheep, dogs and whistles, I am continually gobsmacked at the ignorance that pervades the industry here. We have an amazing, unique creature in the Feshwatrer lobster. How many opportunities are there to see it in captivity. 1, just 1. Out of the 6 times I have taken guests there, it has been shut 5. (that one liscense is a classic example of a minister looking after a mate, eh Bryan)
    In NZ, based on that species alone, the Wynyard airport would be landing jets. They would not recognise opportunity if it bit them on the bum.

  2. Leonard Colquhoun

    August 9, 2011 at 8:19 pm

    Comment 5 asks “who is to advertize ‘Tasmania’ and who is to fund it . . . without both a department and a Minister?”

    In the same way as just about every other business does: Yellow pages, newspaper ads, ads in the travel media, TV & internet ads, sponsorships & promotions, the sorts of budgeted advertising which businesses need to do and budget for, and ensure that they get all the legal tax deductions (or whatever they’ve been re-branded as lately) for this, as part of standard operating procedures.

    Sitting round waiting for some dumb-ass politicians to give you a leg up is absolutely no way to run a business, including tourism businesses. That’s how the Soviet Union ran ‘businesses’, and anyone who has had the experience of ‘shopping’ in GUM will know what I mean.

  3. phill Parsons

    August 9, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    #4 However, who is to advertize ‘Tasmania’ and who is to fund it? How is Tourism recognized as a part of the economy and its interests promoted in government without both a department and a Minister.

    Who is to promote the economic value of heritage, of the natural environment, of localities and regions of particular attraction and the services the industry needs such as the government supported attractions, parks, PAHSMA, RTBG, TMAG, QVMAG, local beaches, etc.

  4. Leonard Colquhoun

    August 9, 2011 at 2:37 am

    Comment 2’s opinion about two of our Tourism Ministers – “Minister O’Byrne had no idea and was probably happy to leave the portfolio as it was demeaning. The current minister Bacon is like a kid trying to learn how to ride a bike” – could be taken as showing that we need a ‘Minister for Tourism’ as much as we need a ‘Minister for Racing’.

    The sooner tourism is not, nor is in any way seen as a being any sort of ‘government business enterprise’, the better.

  5. Mark Poynter

    August 8, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    Well said Leonard. I lived in Tasmania up to the mid-1990s and still visit regularly to visit friends and trout fish in the Highlands.

    The reality is that Tasmania needs both its primary industries and its tourism industries and they co-existed successfully for decades. The notion promulgated by decades of forest activism that tourism will boom if forestry ends has always been fantasyland stuff, and will be proven so – the big loser will be the Tasmanian economy.

    Saving forests from logging is one thing, but when it comes on top of a situation where most forests were already saved it is nothing … in tourism terms. How many large trees does the average tourist want to see – I suspect for most apart from the most zealous bushwalkers, one or two is enough.

    The reality is that those who have pushed hardest for a tourism future are also the greatest impediment to it, because they want to ‘save’ the Tarkine, for example, only for themselves, as they then oppose proposed developments needed to attract visitors ….. such as a certain road in that case.

    This was noted at the recent Legislative Council inquiry into forestry when two representatives of the Tasmanian tourism industry (I can’t recall their names) reflected that there is no evidence to suggest that creating more national parks will attract more tourists, and that maximising tourism $ in these parks requires developments to create high class accommodation and facilities that are always opposed by the same activists who fought to create the park. Sadly, I’m afraid Tassie’s headed for a dark place.

  6. Greg James

    August 7, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    We don’t measure up, is the simple answer for the failure of tourism in Tasmania. The industry is controlled by the same people who controlled tourism in the early 90’s, when Tourism was a failure and again when it was revamped by Bacon in the last years of the nineties.

    The industry thinks that the Fosters group is relevant or that backpackers aren’t. The minister is usually a mental elf in training to be something else. The previous Minister O’Byrne was incapable of expressing herself without a minder to place the words into her mouth.

    I asked the minister on radio, ‘where are the backpackers’, her response was to talk about a failed $20 million campaign on ‘local secrets’. Minister O’Byrne had no idea and was probably happy to leave the portfolio as it was demeaning. The current minister Bacon is like a kid trying to learn how to ride a bike. No ideas, no initiative, no money and an industry TICT board caught in the 1970’s, still congratulating itself on having the first casino.

    Yet New Zealand, a similar market, is creating export earning wealth out of their misfortunes. We as an end destination have a very similiar profile but we lose out in almost every comparison.

    This is mainly because of the self congratulatory leadership and the unremarkable tourism ministry.

    Simon Currant, the long term chair of the TICT, is so past his use by date that he should own up to 20 years of (in my opinion, below average performance) in leading the industry and retire gracefully with a big meaningless award.

    Indeed to improve the outcomes, the industry should give him another big award and say goodbye. The industry will at least have a chance of some rejuvenation, instead of the slow slide backwards that has been occurring in the past 20 years.

    The final reality of tourism in Tasmania is its overblown self opinion and its missing relationship with successful tourism enclaves.

    To continually harp we are the best in the world, ignores the fact that all over this country from Noosa and Broome to the Leisure Coast (Wollongong), the same industry try-hards are competing for the dollar and they think they are wonderful.

    Yet the Tasmanians without question think they are wonderful and need not try as hard, because, well erh, arh, ‘we are wonderful’.

    Doh.

  7. Bazabee

    August 7, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    Well said the con that has been so called mass eco-tourism is and always has been just that a con and it is high time those people and groups that have been trying to sell shares in the con were exposed for what they are. They are flim flam merchants, snake oil salesmen and cargo cult con men nothing more and nothing less. There is no mass eco-tourism market, there never was a mass eco-tourism market and it seems increasingly likely that there never will be a mass eco-tourism market as we learn to reduce our carbon footprints.

    I love Tasmanian and it has a tourist future albeit limited by its distance from the consumers. Yes we have a great product to sell but so do hundreds if not thousands of other tourist destinations which are much closer to America and Europe the source of the tourist dollars.

    So as money gets tighter and tighter tourists are increasingly short of money will holiday closer and closer to home and those who would never have come , amazingly to some, won’t come.

    It is and always was a matter of simple economics magical thinking never had a look in.

    But if you still believe in magic I have a bridge you can invest in one owner colour of your choice, as is where is, cash and a good head start required – first to see will buy.

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