New tourism products needed

TASMANIA'S tourism industry and business leaders say the state desperately needs another major attraction to turn around declining visitor numbers hurting the North-West. 

Tourism Industry Council Tasmania chief executive Luke Martin said saving the struggling West Coast heritage railway line was not enough to address the region's economic woes. 

He said Federal Group's decision to pull out of a contract to run the Abt Railway was a symptom of the area's broader problems.

While the hugely successful Museum of New and Old Art has injected fresh life into Hobart, the North-West has floundered. 

Visitation to the region dropped by 18 per cent between 2001 and 2011. Mr Martin said the drop was partly because many visitors to Tasmania had already been before. 

``What it means is that places like the West Coast that haven't had any new tourism products, haven't given them a reason to go back,'' Mr Martin said. ``We can't just fix the railway, we have to look forward and see what can be done long term.'' 

The Tourism Industry Council Tasmania will focus this year on identifying ``attractive business propositions'' which could revitalise the region. 

Mr Martin said that might include new ways to experience the Gordon River such as a new boat or Pennicott Wilderness Journey-style tours. 

Rob Pennicott, who operates the wilderness journeys in the South, said new ``soft adventure'' attractions would provide a point of difference. 

``In regional Tasmania there are some areas doing it tough . . . and they do need more really iconic attractions,'' Mr Pennicott said.

Michael Grainger is the chairman of TT-Line, which operates the Spirit of Tasmania ferries, as well as Brand Tasmania and travels extensively around the world.

``We need a drawcard, but it needs to be a serious drawcard. Something that people can go home to the US, or Asia or Europe and say: `I went down to Tasmania and did this,' and I don't think that's going to be walking through World Heritage areas,'' he said.

Tasmanian Hospitality Association chief executive officer Steve Old said accommodation occupancy rates were drastically low for the West Coast at 30 per cent in winter, compared with a low of 40 or 50 per cent in Launceston or 60 per cent in Hobart. 

``It's a beautiful spot once you get there, but if you're going to get travellers to make the distance you have to have the attractions,'' Mr Old said. 

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