A BOOST in forward bookings for Spirit of Tasmania fares bodes well for tourist operators, according to the state’s peak tourism body.
Infrastructure Minister Rene Hidding yesterday told State Parliament that passenger sales had risen by more than 9 per cent since last year, and day sailings were up by 20 per cent.
Forward bookings for August to November this year have risen by 10 per cent.
Tourism Industry Council of Tasmania chief executive Luke Martin said the figures were ‘‘really exciting’’.
‘‘The more people who come by sea the more likely they are going to get into regional areas, and they stay longer,’’ Mr Martin said.
Mr Martin said visitors who came by sea spent on average $1000 more and stayed twice as long as those who came by plane.
He said it was critically important that TT-Line, the company that operates the Spirit of Tasmania ferries, kept pace with low-cost airlines.
‘‘The challenge for TT-Line in that market is to continue to be an attractive option, and these results are really encouraging,’’ he said.
Mr Martin said the rise in forward bookings gave tourism operators an indication of how the summer season would shape up.
‘‘That really bodes well for a strong summer,’’ Mr Martin said.
TT-Line chose not to raise fares in line with a CPI increase for the next 12 months.
Mr Hidding said this came on top of a slight price fall from July 1 due to the removal of the carbon tax.
Opposition Leader Bryan Green said Mr Hidding was claiming credit for the positive figures but had made no changes to the operation of TT-Line.
Mr Green said the government should detail what discussions it has had with TT-Line about its election promise to reduce fares by 20 per cent.
‘‘The government must prove it is fair dinkum about cutting fares and that its promise was not just about winning votes,’’ Mr Green said.