Search for an icon

BUILD it, and they will come. The Eiffel Tower did it for Paris, the Opera House for Sydney and in Hobart the Museum of Old and New Art is beginning to create a renaissance for Tasmania's South.

In other parts of the state, however, tourism numbers continue to wane.

When the West Coast Wilderness Railway reopened in 2002, it was after years of consistent growth in visitors to the region. 

Tourism Industry Council Tasmania chief executive Luke Martin said people expected that growth to continue, particularly with the introduction of two new Spirit of Tasmania ferries the same year. 

Instead, visitation to the region dropped by 18 per cent between 2001 and 2011. 

Accommodation occupancy rates are drastically low on the West Coast, falling to 30 per cent in winter, compared with a low of 40 or 50 per cent in Launceston and 60 per cent in Hobart. 

The problem is partly because Tasmania enjoys a high rate of return visitors and Mr Martin said people who had been to the North-West once needed a new reason to go back.

Operators in the North-West believe they need a new iconic attraction to convince tourists to visit - and a growing number of high-profile Tasmanians agree.

ELIZABETH SATTLER, representing Barnbougle Dunes and Lost Farm:

Do we need an icon? 

``We need these drawcards, and we need them to be new, exciting and world-class, not just half-hearted attempts to re-do something that has been before. If we can provide new, exciting experiences we will draw people to the region . . . Why would you travel to the other side of the country to do something you can see in your own town?''

What could it be? 

``Tasmania continues to develop a reputation as a place of pure, untouched beauty and wonderful friendly hospitality. It's fundamental that these distinguishing factors are incorporated into our tourism experience because this is part of who we are.''

ROBERT PENNICOTT, Pennicott Wilderness Journeys operator:

Do we need an icon? 

``In regional Tasmania there are some areas doing it tough . . . and they do need more really iconic attractions.'' However, overall he believes the state as a whole is well-positioned to build tourist numbers, and is very optimistic as an operator in the South.

What could it be?

He believes it should be based around ``soft adventure'' or ``adventure'' type attractions, which have a point of difference.

MICHAEL BAILEY, Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive:

Do we need an icon?

``You can learn a lot from the impact on the South of MONA, as a particular product, as to what we might need in other parts of the state.''

What could it be?

``Smart, viable operations that take advantage of our environment and natural assets.''

STEVE OLD, Tasmanian Hospitality Association chief executive:

Do we need an icon?

``[The North-West] is 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.''

What could it be?

``It must be something that's big enough to be specifically marketed to tourists.''

DANIEL HANNA, Federal Group corporate affairs director:

Do we need an icon?

``New attractions are important as they obviously generate interest in visiting Tasmania from people who have been here before, and from people who hadn't considered visiting the state before.'' However, he thinks Tasmania is lucky to already have three top tourism developments in Saffire, MONA and Barnbougle.

What could it be?

``The best developments have always got a very strong feel for who their markets are, or targeted groups are.''

MICHAEL GRAINGER, TT-Line, Brand Tasmania and Interferry chairman:

Do we need an icon?

``It's not easy for people to get . . . to Tasmania, and when they get here what do they do? We're heading down the right path with something like MONA, but not everyone is interested in art.''

What could it be?

``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.''

LUKE MARTIN, Tourism Industry Council Tasmania chief executive:

Do we need an icon?

``We can't just fix the railway, we have to look forward and see what can be done long term.'' 

What could it be?

``It's about trying to identify some really attractive business propositions to allow people to experience the West Coast in a different way. Look at how we introduce people to the Gordon River, whether it be different routes, different types of boats or a Rob Pennicott-style tour. Give people a reason to go again.'' 

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