Tourism improves the lives of Tasmanians, and all Australians.

When travellers arrive, they don’t just come with a suitcase – they bring economic, social, environmental and cultural benefits.

Visitors are travelling to Australia in record numbers and spending record amounts. Tourism attracts $143 billion in spending every year, one in 13 people work in tourism related industry and the number of tourism businesses has increased by almost 18,000 since we were elected in 2013. While so many indicators are trending up, getting people to our regions is getting more and more hard-won, particularly when it comes to international visitors.

About 43c of every visitor dollar is spent in regional Australia, but less than one tenth of each dollar comes from international tourism.

This makes addressing regional dispersal – getting people out into our regions of central importance.

The barriers can be everything from a lack of information about our regional destinations to booking complexities or perceptions about distances.

That’s why our Government is committed to doing whatever it takes to unlock the potential of our regions. A strong tourism industry means jobs, greater investment and better infrastructure – in our regions. That’s why, as the new Assistant Minister for Regional Tourism, I’ll be hitting to road to hear firsthand about opportunities and challenges in regional tourism and how we can boost it.

That work will start right here in Tassie, because there is no better place to begin than here where tourism has been an Australian success story.

I will be meeting operators, regional tourism authorities, industry councils and state governments.

Later this month I’ll head to Queensland, South Australia and Victoria before continuing around the country.

This is an important step in the work Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham and the industry are doing on our Beyond Tourism 2020 strategy, and regional tourism will be a key element of that plan. As the new minister, I don’t pretend to have all the answers and I acknowledge that there cannot be a one size fits all approach – growth in regional tourism must be done in a way that enhances our regions and in a way that our regions want.

Fortunately for me, it’s here in my own backyard where I can take some of the greatest lessons. The Three Capes Walk, the Cradle Mountain Gateway Precinct, the Great Eastern Drive and the recently announced Next Iconic Walk are leading examples.

These are designed to draw visitors out of our main centres to create jobs, support small business, boost bed nights and inject visitor spending at the local level.

And I can’t go past the Expression of Interest process that the Hodgman Liberal Government has been delivering since they were elected in 2014. The idea is nation-leading and the result is the envy of the country.

We have seen locals and visitors awestruck by their experiences. They feel a connection, they see the value and they share in our commitment to protect the experience for others to come.

This is what regional tourism is all about unlocking the potential of our regions and doing it in a sensitive way that equally celebrates and protects all that’s special. There is so much interest in this from across the nation, and all because of the success in Tasmania.

Tasmania’s EOI process is a blueprint that could change regional tourism across Australia for the better and I will be encouraging exactly that as I travel through our regions.

Published in The Mercury 07 August 2019