Mr President, congratulations on your first adjournment. It’s a very short one tonight. While you are not a Tasmanian, given Melbourne was planned out from the Tasmanian city of Launceston, you are the next best thing! Tonight, it is my great pleasure to rise and speak on the great and wonderful Tasmanian tourism industry. On Friday night of last week we had the annual Tasmanian Tourism Awards, which are a celebration of the finest and the best of what is a terrific industry and absolutely a nation leader. The awards are set up by the Tourism Industry Council Tasmania, with the support of a great many organisations—including Qantas, to name one—to recognise those who are really forging ahead to help this industry which supports so many economies to grow not just in our major population centres but also in our regional communities and to create jobs. There were gold, silver and bronze awards over 25 categories throughout the entire industry, ranging from major tourism attractions through to boutique and very niche operations as well.

Tonight I want to pay particular tribute to one individual from Tasmania—Josef Chromy, who was named the 2017 Tourism Champion. He is certainly, not only in this sector but broadly in Tasmania, an inspirational Tasmanian and someone that many look up to, particularly in the northern part of the state around the city of Launceston. Joe Chromy’s contribution has spanned six decades in our state. He’s been a real contributor to the history of our state and development in more recent times. He was born in Czechoslovakia. He fled his war-torn community in 1950, at the age of 19, following more than a decade of Soviet and Nazi occupation in his community and in his country.

In Tasmania in the 1990s Joe purchased, cultivated and developed a number of vineyards along the Tamar River in the northern part of the state—vineyards that are now home to some of the best-known brands of wine from Tasmania, including Tamar Ridge and Jansz, the sparkling wine label there. More recently the family company has grown the signature Josef Chromy and Pepik wine labels. They also developed the Josef Chromy wine centre, which was notably named as one of Australia’s top 10 cellar doors, which is an excellent achievement for our little state.

One of the best contributions Joe Chromy made to our state was at the height of the global financial crisis. He injected some economic activity into a community that needed it, with the development of the former Launceston General Hospital into what is now a great hotel in the city of Launceston—the Charles Hotel. This provided much economic activity and a great many jobs. More recently Joe Chromy has invested in and redeveloped the Penny Royal Complex just outside the Launceston CBD. He has revealed his vision to develop one of Australia’s best hotels—the Gorge Hotel. Joe Chromy has an absolute commitment to regional Tasmania and our regional economy. He has shown absolute confidence by investing his own money into that community. I know my colleague and friend Senator Bushby would agree with me in that assessment.

Alongside those developments Joe’s JAC Group is renowned for cultivating local Tasmanian talent and skills in our wine, hospitality and tourism sectors. He has—I don’t think anyone in Tasmania would argue—a reputation as an outstanding employer and someone who recognises talent, fosters that and helps the people who work for him create a future in our great state of Tasmania. Joe Chromy is a very worthy addition to the honour roll of Tasmanian tourism champions. I was pleased to be there on Friday night, along with the Premier of Tasmania, Will Hodgman, and many others, to celebrate his addition to that honour roll.

The Tasmanian tourism sector, as I’ve said in this place, is an absolute engine room for our economy and our state. Here are a few figures to demonstrate in more recent times how the tourism sector is growing and supporting our economy, both innercity and more regional. More tourists are arriving in our state. The year to June 2017 saw 1.27 million visitors come to our state. These are not people returning home; these are visitors. This is up from 1.1 million two years ago. Tourists are spending more. Visitor expenditure is up 10 per cent to $2.26 billion—that’s an average spend of $1,783 per visitor. Tourists are staying longer, with a total of 10.83 million nights across that same period of time, which was up six per cent.

We’ve got more interstate visitors. We’ve cracked one million interstate tourists in a 12-month period. The number was at 1.06 million at June 2017, which is up again six per cent on the previous year. We’ve got more international tourists—up 13 per cent to 253,200 visitors—and they’re spending. Spending by that sector of visitors is up 24 per cent. We have the highest increase across the nation in the number of visitors. There are a great many indicators to show that the tourism industry is a massive contributor to the Tasmanian economy. I have noted in previous debates that the east and west coasts of Tasmania, which are made up of many regional communities, are the fifth and sixth most tourism-dependent economies in the nation. In Tasmania, the tourism industry directly and indirectly employs over 37,000 people, most of those in regional communities.

Other awards that have been chalked up recently by Tasmanian tourism and hospitality establishments include the Thousand Lakes Lodge in the Central Highlands being named by Lonely Planet as one of the top three places to stay in the world. The city of Launceston, which I’ve mentioned already, is going to play host to the Qantas Australian Tourism Awards gala dinner in 2019. That is a great boon for the community. We’ll find 800 tourism operators and industry leaders from across the country converging on our city to celebrate the achievements in the industry. Having said that, though, the Tasmanian industry is no stranger to the Australian Tourism Awards. We’ve received around 70 of the awards from the Qantas Australian Tourism Awards in the last five years—33 gold, 22 silver and 16 bronze. Some other accolades in 2015 were that MONA, Cradle Mountain and Port Arthur were named by Lonely Planet as amongst the 10 Australian destinations in the top 500 places in the world to visit. In July 2015, Tasmania was named the best island destination in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific region, and the fourth-best island in the world at the Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards.

Tasmania has got it going on in the tourism space. We have a great industry. There is still room to grow. We are seeing an extra 1,600 beds required in Hobart alone to cater for the demand in the tourism sector for those international visitors who are going to be coming from the extended runway funded by the coalition government in Hobart, with direct flights from China and other Asian destinations into Hobart. To cater for that demand, we will be seeing the increase in accommodation facilities. My hope too is that we will see a greater flow of visitors from inner city parts of the state—downtown Launceston and Hobart—into our regional communities like Burnie, Devonport, Cradle Mountain, the west coast and the east coast. I’m very proud of our state and what we have to offer—what many of you should come down to see and spend more time sipping our wine and tasting our oysters. I commend Joe Chromy and the entire Tasmanian tourism industry and thank the Senate for its time tonight.