Tourist numbers at the Freycinet National Park are up six per cent. (Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service: Geoffrey Lea)
Tasmania’s reputation as a nature-based tourism hot spot has been cemented with another big jump in visitor numbers.
New figures released by the Parks and Wildlife Service show overall visitation increased by 7 per cent in 2017-18 to 1.4 million visitors.
Freycinet National Park, featuring the famed Wineglass Bay on the state’s east coast, was a key attraction, with tourist numbers up 6 per cent to a record 310,000 people.
The Premier, Will Hodgman, who is also the Minister for Parks, said Tasmania’s national parks and reserves were one of the key drivers in the state’s visitor economy, with close to half of all visitors to the state saying they came specifically to see them.
The Tamar Island Wetlands in Launceston were one of the most popular sites for tourists, with a 13 percent increase in 2017-18, while 5 per cent more people visited Lake St Clair and 9 per cent more went to Highfield House in Stanley.
The Mole Creek Caves, which reopened after being closed by flooding in 2016, were visited by 63,000 people
Tasmania’s Tourism Industry Council welcomed the figures, with chief executive Luke Martin saying the numbers reaffirmed that national parks were a major drawcard to regional Tasmania.
“The numbers reflect the healthy change that the state’s parks and reserves aren’t locked up, and in reality are growing interpretive areas,” Mr Martin said.
He said the industry continued to support policies which see well-maintained, well-managed areas, and provide new ways for people to experience them.
‘Figures no measure of parks’ health’
But Vica Bayley from the Wilderness Society said visitor number were no indication of the health of Tasmania’s national parks.
“As Parks Minister, Premier Hodgman should be concerned about the protection of priceless natural and cultural values and the fact that many of our precious reserves are being loved to death,” Mr Bayley said.
“Visitor numbers are a measure of how parks and reserves support Tasmania’s identity and economy, so it beggars belief that Premier Hodgman wants to reverse the conservation status of hundreds of thousands of hectares of reserved forests that could help ease the pressure on existing visitor hotspots,” he said.
The Government says the state’s national parks support the businesses of 200 nature-based tourism operators, and it is investing more than $65 million in the management of the state’s parks and reserves to protect wilderness assets and provide opportunities for people to engage with natural areas.