Veteran ad man Don Morris AO spoke to the Property Leaders Brisbane group at the swanky Emporium South Bank hotel on Thursday night about how Queensland can boost tourism. Morris, now at Pure Projects, was part of the Mojo Advertising team that created such memorable slogans as “C’mon Aussie, c’mon” and “Slip another shrimp on the barbie.” Morris had a lot of impressive statistics in his presentation on the contribution of tourism to our economy, although his message was a little confusing. I was very pleased Morris more-or-less said tourism is about people rather than buildings. He reminded us of the brilliantly effective Paul Hogan ad from the eighties which celebrated the laid back and welcoming nature of Australians. But at the same time, he noted the Sydney Opera House was a major draw card, as was the Crawley Edge Boat Shed on the Swan River in Perth (see this news.com.au article on its popularity with Instagrammers). At least the Boat Shed suggests you don’t need to spend huge amounts of money to build a tourist attraction.
A panel discussion followed Morris’s presentation. Tourism Tropical North Queensland’s new CEO Mark Olsen offered some thoughts about how Queensland can distinguish itself and boost tourism. He referred to the opportunities offered by the islands of Moreton Bay, and the roles local Indigenous people can play in tourism ventures, such as whale watching, in what is known as Quandamooka country.
Morris’s presentation and Olsen’s comments got me thinking about what measures I would suggest for stimulating Queensland tourism, which arguably should be performing a lot better than it has been. While total spending by international visitors was up nearly 9% in the twelve months to 31 March 2019, visitor numbers were marginally lower (see Pete Faulkner’s post International Visitor Survey shows TNQ continues to underperform). It appears we’re becoming increasingly reliant on international students, whose longer average stays push up average spend per visitor and hence total visitor spending (see my post from June International education boom).
While acknowledging there is some good work underway to promote Indigenous and eco-tourism, I would suggest the following measures to stimulate tourism in Queensland.
- Use our convict history, including tales of the cruel Captain Logan and the resourceful Eliza Fraser, to help stimulate international interest in Queensland. I regularly walk past the old windmill on Wickham Terrace on my way to Roma St Parklands, and I often wonder why we don’t do more with Queensland’s oldest structure, where Captain Logan had the convicts working the treadmill back in the 1820s (check out Brisbane’s Tower Mill).
- Remove regulations which make us look boring to international visitors—e.g. anachronistic retail trading hours regulations, which mean most supermarkets can’t stay open after 9pm Monday to Saturday or after 6pm on Sunday, and none can sell alcohol. Arguably, the lock out laws also make us look boring.
- Reject NIMBYism. Brisbane City Council should have allowed the Mt Coot-tha zip line to proceed. Say “Yes in my backyard” instead, as Yimby Qld does.
- Improve the walk-ability of our urban centres, particularly the fringe of Brisbane CBD, which has several spots which are uninviting and dangerous for pedestrians. Walking along Turbot St is a horrible experience, and consider how difficult it is for people to cross Wickham Terrace at the back of Central Station in peak hour traffic. It should be easy to move between the city, Spring Hill, and the Valley, but instead it can be a fraught experience for pedestrians. Luckily things are better over the other side of the river at South Bank.
The old windmill on Wickham Terrace, Spring Hill, Brisbane. Photo by Kgbo.