Unlock South-West: tourism

A STATE tourism head believes it is time to start thinking about commercial expansion into Tasmania's heavily protected South-West wilderness area.

It is the 30th anniversary of the World Heritage listing of the area this month.

Tourism Industry Council Tasmania chief executive Luke Martin said if tourism was to be a key driver in the state's future economy, commercial development should be more encouraged in Tasmania's protected wilderness.

``We think that the tourism industry should start thinking about how we enhance the tourism experience and how more wealth can be generated from these areas,'' Mr Martin said.

``We know with the transition in our economy, maximising the economic generation out of our protected areas is going to be more critically important for the state.''

More than one million hectares of South-West wilderness was declared World Heritage by the United Nations in Paris  in December, 1982.

The UN decided that the area met seven of the 10 criteria for World Heritage listing - the highest number out of all international listings.

During a year from June 2011, Tourism Tasmania figures show that visitation to the western wilderness area dropped 14 per cent to 215,400 people - down from 250,000 the year before.

Mr Martin said that as Tasmania's most isolated location, the West Coast relied heavily on tourism dollars but investors were deterred by the difficulty and cost involved in developing tourist experiences there. He said building costs were at least 20 per cent higher than building in cities.

Mr Martin said restrictions on development in Tasmania's national parks were made more difficult by opposition from people who ideologically objected to commercial activity in those areas.

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