A boom in outdoor activities and farm-gate visits is fuelling overseas tourism in Tasmania, with the island state experiencing the biggest growth in visitor numbers of any state and territory, according to new figures.
The latest figures from the federal body Tourism Research Australia show 307,000 international visitors came to Tasmania in the 12 months to September last year, report agencies. That was up from 267,000 in the previous 12 months — a 15 per cent increase. Tourist spending also went up 13 per cent from $484 million in the year to September 2017, to $547 million in the year to September 2018.
Federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham said Tasmania’s growth had largely been driven by China. “Part of the lift in Tasmanian tourism can be attributed to [having a] high profile in China, associated with President [Xi Jinping’s] visit to Tasmania over the last couple of years,” he said.
“That just shows how every little thing helps in terms of growing tourism.” The figures showed outdoor activities were also increasingly popular, with bushwalking and guided excursions both increasing 7 per cent to 1.9 million and 1.4 million respectively.
“Whether it be kayaking near Cradle Mountain in Tassie, cycling in the Blue Mountains in NSW or bush walking in the Bungle Bungle Range in WA.”
Tasmania’s reputation for high-quality food and wine no doubt also helped its popularity — the survey found dining out was the most popular activity undertaken by international visitors, with 7.8 million of them partaking nationally. Visits to farm gates were the fastest growing activity — with 413,000 tourists looking for the experience nationally in 2018, up 13 per cent.
Attractions struggling to cater to tourists Luke Martin from the Tourism Industry Council Tasmania said while all visitors were welcome, the boom was putting pressure on the environment. “Those areas are jewels for Tasmania and Australia … frankly they haven’t had the investment they should over time,” he said.
“We’re seeing about $80 million spent on Cradle Mountain.
“That will help with conservation challenges and its role of key tourism icon in northern Tasmania.”
Margy Osmond from the Tourism and Transport Forum said finding ways to avoid issues like overcrowding and litter would be a major issue for the industry in the coming years.
“That will be everything from enough public transport, to sensitive areas,” she said. “Sustainable tourism is the discussion topic for the next couple of years. “We’ve got more lead time than other countries so we need to work out how to protect and provide access.”
On Tasmania’s east coast, Glamorgan Spring Bay Mayor Debbie Wisby said the towns in her municipality, north-east of Hobart, were extremely busy.
“It puts a lot of pressure on facilities such as toilets,” she said.
Cr Wisby said the State and Federal Governments needed to help regional areas cope financially with the demand.
“Our general rates are for roads, rubbish and footpaths and some toilets, of course, but if we need to build many more toilets then of course we’re going to need the government to assist in funding those,” she said.
“They’re not for our general ratepayers and residents, they’re for visitors.
“If [the governments] get the extra taxes from visitation, then some of those taxes need to come into the councils to help support the infrastructure that needs to be built because as a small council we simply cant afford to do all that work.”