Ferry trips to bring numbers to Maria

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AN exclusive 100-seat passenger ferry to Maria Island may double day-trip visitor numbers and revive tourism on the lower East Coast.

Parks and Heritage Minister Brian Wightman will soon call for a sole ferry operator to run a first-class service to the island.

This follows the release of an eco-tourism feasibility report, funded through the forest peace deal, along with a $1.6 million upgrade of the island's jetty.

The island's disease-free Tasmanian devil population could also be used to raise the island's tourism profile.

Mr Wightman said the report highlighted a need for a sole ferry operator to build Maria Island as an accessible, must-see eco-tourism destination.

It is hoped a more frequent and reliable ferry service will increase day visitor numbers by 18,000 in six years, and bring private business opportunities to the island and nearby communities of Triabunna and Orford.

Previous visitor numbers in 2011 revealed a significant lack of interest in Maria Island, falling by 43.5 per cent over six years.

``We know that Maria's natural values, including its isolation, wildlife and scenery, along with the World Heritage-listed Darlington Probation Station, have much to offer the visitor,'' Mr Wightman said.

``We are committed to capitalising on these attributes to enhance the East Coast's tourism appeal.''

The report also focused on brand development, which included using the Tasmanian devil as a key marketing tool to promote Maria Island as an East Coast destination.

It is believed a population of up to 35 Tasmanian devils are living on the island more than a year after 15 captive devils were released, as part of the state government's Save the Tasmanian Devil island relocation project.

The report's main example messages to attract visitors included:

 Take the time to see our endangered wildlife in their natural environment and see how they survive and thrive. 

 Leave the worries of the world behind on an awe-inspiring journey across the Mercury Passage to an island of yesteryear.

Mr Wightman said the jetty upgrade was due for completion in May.

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