Australia's tourism industry has been doing it tough these past few years, however we're now seeing signs the worst has past.
Visitor numbers to Tasmania have consistently increased over the past three quarters, with the most recent figures indicating a 10 % increase over the previous period - and while anything can still happen, the forward projections for the short-term look good.
A scan of Australia's tourism industry, commissioned by Tourism Tasmania, also revealed a positive outlook for our industry over the medium and long term.
Changes in demand from our overseas markets, an increase in Australia's aging demographic, and the continuing adoption of new technologies that empower travellers to share their experiences, all provide Tasmania with significant opportunities for long-term sustainable growth.
Recognising this, Tourism Tasmania has, over the past 12 months, undertaken a range of projects aimed at consolidating our strengths and increasing the sustainability of our industry in anticipation of this inevitable return to growth.
Responding to changes in our overseas markets, we've rationalised our commitment to our traditional markets like Europe, the United States and Japan, while embracing high growth opportunities in new markets like China, Malaysia and Singapore.
A shift towards an aging demographic in Australia will see a change in the pattern and level of demand for tourism services. Fortunately for us, this increasingly older demographic is our largest market; it has the greatest value, and has the highest growth in arrivals. Continuing to engage with this audience is a must.
A revision of our domestic marketing strategy to better accommodate the needs of this group will see us move from a ‘one message fits all' approach, to one that lets us deliver the right information, to the right people, at the right time; before, during and after their trip.
And to further strengthen this marketing capability, we've refreshed and redefined the tourism brand to give Tasmania a unique and consistent voice in an increasingly noisy market place.
The recent rise in mobile technology and social sharing websites also plays to our advantage. Our research tells us that, more than any other Australian state, word of mouth is the most effective way for us to engage a domestic audience, more so even that television or radio.
It therefore makes sense for us to make greater use of social media channels and third party advocacy to better promote the state. The redevelopment of our official travel website Discover Tasmania, currently underway, will help us to do just that.
Other projects coming to fruition this past year include the establishment of four regional tourism organisations to make better use of the state's marketing resources and a further expansion of our research capability to give us and our industry more reliable information with which to underpin our business decisions.
We are also working closely with our industry to review T21 Tourism 21(T21) – the joint strategic business plan between the tourism industry and the Tasmanian Government. The plan sets out shared long-term goals for the growth of Tasmania's tourism industry for 2013 – 2016 and is being reviewed to make sure its goals and strategies remain achievable, challenging and relevant to prevailing and forecast market conditions.
Along with the endorsement of T21, this coming year will see us continue to consolidate these projects to ensure the gains achieved to date are not lost. To that end, I welcome the appointment of John Fitzgerald as CEO and thank him for his steady hand in taking over the implementation of this ambitious reform agenda. I also thank the Board and staff of Tourism Tasmania for their support and hard work over this past year and I look forward to working with them to continue to grow the long term sustainability of our industry into the future.