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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 08 Hansard (Thursday, 30 June 2005 2005) . . Page.. 2533 ..

A key component of the government’s strategy for tourism in the ACT has reportedly been a focus on major events. To this end, the Australian Capital Tourism Corporation, ACTC, has formed an events unit, the intention of which is to establish a stronger capability in the planning and management of major events in the ACT and region. The thing I find a bit inconsistent is that, despite the pronouncements from the minister and also from the corporation—this is going to be a major area of activity in the ACT—it is not reflected in the staffing levels.

Whilst one might say that the staffing of this unit only fell by one, the fact that it fell at all and did not reflect an increase within the framework of the ACTC budget raises a number of doubts as to whether the corporation or the government is genuinely committed to attracting more events. Given the schedule under way at present and being addressed by this unit in terms of events management, how, if they are doing the job presently at hand with those staff, are they going to be able to attract and provide the necessary resources to ensure the successful conduct of other tourism events in the ACT?

As is well appreciated, events are an important factor in employment generation. They drive not only the obvious, such as hotel occupancy, but also the flow-on impact for a range of other industries. In particular, restaurants, the retail sector and ground transport providers, whether they be taxis, coaches or limousine services, are all beneficiaries of major events. Indeed, I have heard taxi drivers say that they earned a substantial part of their income from the Masters Games, which has been one of the more successful events we have undertaken. If you get the events right and you get high spending delegates, as with the convention market, you can deliver a lot of flow-on benefits to the people of Canberra.

I have always felt that the approach of the government to tourism in the ACT has been less than enthusiastic. There has been a deal of rhetoric, but the numbers certainly do not suggest that we are breaking any great records in this regard. I know that the minister will respond by arguing that on a per capita basis we spend more than everybody else except the Northern Territory and Tasmania but, at the end of the day, the success of our tourism exercise is measured by the number of people coming here, the amounts they spend and the quality and profile of the tourist. One very important factor as far as I am concerned is the percentage of the international visitation market that we are attracting.

I illustrated, I think fairly graphically, in the estimates hearing the need for a more effective program for capturing the international backpacker market, where we perform very poorly. I do not believe that the fact that Canberra is landlocked and is the political capital is necessarily a deterrent, as I am sure the Chief Minister can confirm. Washington DC does extraordinarily well in tourism as the political capital of the United States and there is no reason that Canberra cannot also benefit from those large numbers.

I believe that we need to get a lot more serious about tourism and we ought to exploit the opportunities that are there for us. I now that Mr MacDiarmid makes a fair effort in what he is doing—“fair” is probably understating it; he makes a very good effort—but I think the resources that he has at his disposal are such that they are limited in what they can do.

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