I rise to also comment on this report. As an introductory comment, I will say
that overall this report highlights a number of issues and challenges in the
tourist industry. I think there is unanimous support for the contention that
tourism in regional Victoria is well and truly alive and kicking. Many of the
recommendations in this report underpin and provide add-ons to the government’s
strategy in terms of tourism, particularly in rural and regional Victoria.
The statistics we have seen in relation to tourism in Victoria
underpin the fact that we are in a stage of good growth in this area. There has
been a significant increase in international visitation — in fact a 30 per cent
increase — over the life of this Labor government.
International visitation expenditure has increased by over 55
per cent since 1999. We have also seen figures that show domestic overnight
visitor expenditure in regional Victoria increasing to 49 per cent. All of that
tells us that we are moving in the right direction and that Victoria is and
continues to be a popular destination for tourists, whether from interstate,
within Victoria or overseas.
The committee received a significant number of submissions, and
each of them played a major role in its deliberations. As committee chair Damian
Drum has mentioned already, there were extensive public hearings throughout
Victoria. In my electorate alone there were consultations in Dunkeld, Horsham,
Port Campbell, Ballarat, Geelong, Daylesford and Lorne.
We had witnesses who came from all the surrounding communities
to give evidence on the state of tourism and its impact on local communities. It
is fair to say that Victoria has a range of iconic attractions.
It has an unusually high number of tourist attractions in a
whole range of areas — from geographic formations to iconic industrial areas,
as well as indigenous cultural spaces. I believe there is a growing acceptance
that all of these need to be nurtured and protected so that not just the visual
aspects of these attractions can be enjoyed but that this generation and future
generations can gain greater education.
We also need to be very mindful of having a balance of tourist
options whilst ensuring that there are affordable family holidays for young
Australian families and that, at the same time, we are very mindful of our
Having said that, one of our terms of reference was to look at
the impact of floods and bushfires on tourism in rural and regional communities.
There is wide acknowledgement that the packages that were put in place by this
government were very important interventions.
It is also important to state for the record that there is
general acceptance that a timely injection of money is very important, but the
targeted nature of those packages is also incredibly important.
When the Parliament last sat, the report into the bushfires was
tabled, so I will not go through the details of that, but it is important when
looking at the flood and bushfire recovery packages that there be targeted areas
that have an impact on the tourism industry.
A statement by the Premier on 10 July 2007 announced a number
of interventions that included: over $30 million to rebuild flood-damaged roads
and bridges; $20 million to enable the Department of Sustainability and
Environment and local catchment authorities to undertake clean-up works such as
repair of roads and tracks, removal of debris, repair of fences et cetera; and
$545 000 in tourism packages to encourage tourists back to the region.
There was also $100 000 for additional financial counselling
and another $100 000 for community wellbeing initiatives.
That package was a recognition that these sorts of
infrastructure moneys are needed to assist in getting tourists back, to have
proper roads and access to tourist areas, and that there are targeted areas for
local operators to feed into so as to restore financial and community wellbeing;
then they can continue to operate their businesses. In terms of the bushfires,
similar initiatives were taken: infrastructure, financial support, rebuilding,
making sure that fences were put in place and a whole range of other measures.
I would like to thank the witnesses who had direct experience
of those natural disasters for giving us the privilege to hear firsthand what
they, their families and their local communities went through.
Some of the people who gave evidence not only gave up their
time but essentially had to relive their experiences, some of which were
occurred or two years ago; we could feel and almost touch their experiences,
pain and agony. Some of them, quite frankly, did break down, because the scars
of those experiences are still with them today.
That is why it is very important that recommendation 22,
dealing with financial and other counselling, becomes a priority. It is
absolutely imperative that it be included in any blueprint for an intervention
package. Again I make it clear that committee members thank the people who were
brave enough to share their experiences with us.
The case studies that the committee’s chair, Damian Drum,
mentioned were another good example of people being able to bring a variety of
experiences to the committee. They brought the issue alive not only for us but
hopefully for all readers of this report into the future.
There are some really serious but exciting opportunities for
tourism in Victoria. Ecotourism is one. A number of amazing international
standard examples are occurring; one that comes to mind is what is happening at
Cape Otway. Lizzie Corke gave us a wonderful example of how we can educate
tourists while attracting huge numbers of overseas tourists.
Recently we have heard about the geopark in western Victoria,
which is a United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation
listing. That will also feed into the unique ecotourism experience that we will
be able to offer in Victoria. The need for sustainable tourism and the
maintenance of our pristine natural environment were at the core of many of the
submissions, and it was heartening to see that such submissions came from a
whole range of people who directly or indirectly are involved with the industry.
I am pleased also that the government in the most recent budget
announced $13.3 million specifically for the tourism sector in regional
Victoria, which will lead to the creation of more jobs; also it will inject
millions of dollars into local regional economies. These funds will help
Victoria’s 10 tourism regions to market themselves domestically and facilitate
the involvement of local tourism operators and local councils in marketing
That is going to be of enormous importance, because it will
provide the mechanism for the local leadership that Mr Drum was talking about.
Then those local leaders can determine how best that mechanism can be
implemented and how effective it will be in bringing the parties together.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all members of
the committee. I agree with its chair that we worked very cooperatively. There
was a sense of comradeship. Indeed it was quite fascinating at times because we
heard of some very raw experiences, as well as experiences that were well
developed and sophisticated. All in all, all committee members were pleasantly
surprised to see so many people in rural and regional Victoria working together
for the common good to bring about the very best in tourism.
I thank the secretariat staff: Lilian Topic, our executive
officer; Cheryl Hercus, our research officer; Jason Ngam, our secretariat
officer; and several other people who came to the committee at various times to
assist. Again I very much thank the people who took the time to make submissions
and who appeared before the committee.
I thank the members of the general population who were involved
in this exercise, as well as the tourist operators. I also thank members of the
regional media, both print and TV. They were very supportive and cooperative and
made sure that information was out in all areas of regional Victoria and that
people knew when we were about to come into town, when we were in town, and what
our views and opinions were afterwards. Local councils throughout rural and
regional Victoria were also very supportive. They assisted on the ground and
facilitated at a number of venues. I commend this report.