Page 1728 - Week 06 - Wednesday, 13 May 2015
continue to grow and one that we have every reason to be optimistic about. This week’s announcement that the 12 surrounding New South Wales councils are now part of the Canberra brand is a very good endorsement of the government’s rebranding of the city, the approach we are taking and our vision for the future. I commend my amendment to the Assembly.
MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo) (4.20): I thank Mr Smyth for the motion he has brought forward today, which is not unlike the one we debated in September last year comparing current tourism rates with the centenary year. I do not think it is possible to look at a couple of years to pick up long-term trends when it comes to things like tourism. Obviously we had a very big spike in visitors in 2013, when we had many additional visitors come to our city to be part of the centenary celebrations. That, of course, is not at all surprising, given the range of special events that were on. Many people took an opportunity to say to their families and relatives in other parts of Australia, “This is a great time to come to Canberra.” We had a clear and obvious spike in the 2013 calendar, with over two million domestic overnight visitors to the ACT, a 1.8 per cent increase from the 2012 calendar year. This increase came from the leisure sector, with the ACT’s domestic overnight holiday visitor numbers up by 39 per cent. Visitor nights associated with these holiday visitors were also up by 26 per cent for the corresponding period. Many of the people were staying longer than in the previous year.
In the 2014 calendar year there was an adjustment, with overnight visitor numbers dropping back by five per cent from the previous year. However, visitor nights increased by nine per cent compared with previous years, meaning those that visited stayed longer. For me they are interesting things worth thinking about when we start to talk about the future of Canberra’s tourism industry. One needs to look at the fact that the nature of the visit is changing and think about what is behind that. To me, that speaks to the fact that Canberra is getting a reputation as somewhere that is worth staying and that there is more here to see than perhaps people previously perceived. That is, of course, one of the challenges we face because research from Tourism Research Australia last year shows that Canberra is not perceived as a priority holiday destination when compared with other regions.
This is an opportunity to address that by presenting a fresh image of our city, which is what the brand Canberra campaign has been doing. Part of that was the successful human brochure campaign. That research clearly shows that, compared to some other destinations with their brand, beaches, warmer weather and the like, Canberra needs to define a niche for itself. We need to find a way to define ourselves in that very competitive domestic tourism market.
I believe our image is changing. In June last year the New York Times championed the natural beauty and hipster underbelly of our city, and visitors are coming to understand the great diversity of experiences on offer. That sort of coverage is priceless. What I noticed as a result of that particular article was that a lot of people in Canberra noticed it and really promoted it and started talking about Canberra in a different way. It is about changing the image of our city, and we need to do that ourselves. We need to own that changing image, because we are often the best ambassadors for our own city as we travel, but also promote the spread of that word through social media or traditional media.