Over the past week the expectation of borders reopening to many of Tasmania's key visitor markets by Christmas has been met with relief from the tourism industry, tempered only with the realities of ongoing restrictions and the consequences of the virus existing in our community.
Our industry collectively appreciates and respects the risks that COVID-19 represents - that's why adhering to restrictions and safety protocols is seen as critical for everyone who works in tourism.
As Tasmanians many of us cannot wait to travel off-island, to reconnect with people close to us that we have been kept from. Equal to this is a revival of our visitor economy and renewing the value generated by hosting visitors in our state.
The economics alone are sound at approximately $2.54 billion year-end 2019, and 42,000 Tasmanian jobs directly or indirectly attributed to the tourism sector, numbers we anticipate returning to within the next few years.
The value in keeping Tasmania connected socially and economically to the outside world is also apparent. Of the 1.35 million visitors, 350,400 were here visiting friends and family, 251,600 here doing business with Tasmanians and 113,000 for other purposes such as attending conferences, education etc.
Leaving 635,100 motivated to explore our island while on holiday. These visitors are the life blood of our local tourism industry, without which so much of what we value as part of our Tasmanian lifestyle wouldn't be as it is.
Consider this ...
Visitors to our state are the best export marketing we can do, especially for our food and fibre. Tasmanian merino wool, our wine, whisky, gin and beer, our truffles, seafood and all manner of farmed produce are enjoyed by visitors to our state. These new ambassadors champion their newfound culinary cravings through word of mouth as well as purchasing at home.
Our events calendar in the north is rich, festooned with dates to indulge sporting, cultural, food and community celebrations.
Most of our events catering to more than 1000 people depend on interstate punters to generate the economic returns required to validate state and local government funding. Without this funding these events would be a shadow of themselves.
We host over 35,000 visitors annually who attend conferences and other business events on our island. These conferences connect our industries with opportunities to grow, while showcasing our credentials in associated disciplines.
The rise and rise of recreational pursuits such as mountain biking, golf and multi-day walking have been driven by investment in, and marketing to what specific visitor segments want. We as Tasmanians benefit not only via the jobs created, but also by having these pursuits available to us, offering healthy options to improve our wellbeing.
Over 7000 international students studied in Tasmania during 2019. Not only were they valued 'temporary Tasmanians', they also attracted visits from their families. Equally importantly many students stay on in Tasmania, adding to our cultural diversity.
Our food scene is multi-cultural, with a wide array of restaurants and cafes offering ethnically diverse menus. Many of these outlets were established by migrants to our state, many originally who came to Tasmania on holiday or as part of their educational pathway.
The quality of our food offerings regardless of origin, is of global significance, case in point the recent application for Launceston to become a city of gastronomy.
Much of Tasmania's past is protected and curated as visitor experiences. Our entire convict history is linked to the narrative we share with our visitors. Port Arthur is the most obvious, but more and more so our other significant sites such as Woolmers and Brickendon Estates, Clarendon and Franklin Houses, Beaconsfield Heritage Centre and Low Head Pilot Station.
Our greatest opportunity has still to be realised, in how we partner with Tasmanian Aboriginal storytellers to share the truth of our past with ourselves and our guests.
MONA wasn't built for Tasmanians. Well, OK it was, but without the 1.35 million annual visitors (which includes Tasmanians) coming through its doors it may be beyond even David Walsh's means to keep it afloat as an enterprise. The cultural renaissance in the south of the state, driven by MONA, would likely have floundered.
Every Tasmanian relishes our enviable access to the natural environment. Tasmanian parks and reserves are abundant and easily accessible to everyone, and fiercely protected by local communities.
Fortunately, two-thirds of all visitors to our state share in these places.
This not only generates an economic return for regional communities in proximity to reserve areas, but also GST receipts that validate responsible and sustainable government investment in critical infrastructure, ensuring future generations of Tasmanians and visitors alike can enjoy these protected places.
We do need to reopen our state to the world, a world that needs to be approached cautiously given pandemic conditions.
We also need to appreciate the silver lining in doing so.
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