The shift towards the concept of a visitor economy being touted by Dr James Cretan, Chair of Tourism Tasmania, by expanding on the current tourism led economic revival efforts is a good one. This is particularly so given that visitor economy models focus on strengthening supply chains and infrastructure investment which contribute to developing a well-diversified economy providing greater opportunity for secure employment. In the past one of the key drivers for outward migration has been the lack of employment opportunities in Tasmania, contributing to the current scenario of projected population decline.
The visitor economy model is one which transitions the concept of a tourism industry based on the direct consumption of tourism related products and services to a broader concept encompassing the indirect economic and social contribution of industry sub-sectors which rely on and support the direct tourism industry. The visitor economy is largely focused on the supply side of the tourism industry equation.
This is clearly important when considering a Deloitte report “Capturing the Visitor Economy: A framework for success” which showed that there is a strong relationship between the contribution to the GDP of a country’s tourism sector to the government expenditure on the sector, but there is no correlation between the quality of the tourism offering (measured by competiveness rank) and the level of government expenditure on the sector. This finding suggests that the quality of the tourism offering is more closely related to the attributes of the visitor economy capital. To that end it is the supply side factors such as the effective delivery of infrastructure and relative attractiveness of the place which will have the greatest long term impact on the broader economy, and population.
Tasmania’s unbalanced population age structure, caused by a disproportionately lower number of working and reproducing aged people, is contributing to Tasmania’s imminent projected population decline. The best solution to mitigate Tasmania’s anticipated population decline and to adequately provide for the population is to retain and attract working families to Tasmania.
Given the interrelated nature of the tourism experience, the potential visitor economy creating employment opportunities and the need to address the challenges of projected population decline by attracting the working and reproducing age population, it makes sense to ensure that Tasmania’s tourism marketing efforts also captures this demographic.
Tasmania’s tourism market is dominated by domestic (Australian) visitors. Tourism Tasmania’s research of those Australians most likely to be influenced to visit the state identified two target audiences: those aged 40+ couples seeking a touring experience and aged 25 to 39 couples wanting a short break.
The reality is that these couple DINKs (Double Income No Kids) now have kids in tow. Over the past decade, Australia has experienced a baby boom. From 2004 to 2013 there were 2,907,847 babies born in Australia, 391,265 more than the previous decade, an increase of 15.5 per cent. Almost 78 per cent of these babies were born to women aged 25 to 39. Those educated and wealthy couples who had previously delayed their childbearing to pursue education, careers and other opportunities are now playing catch up, or demographically speaking ‘recuperating delayed births’, contributing to both a rise in the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) and the number of babies being born. Importantly however, research suggests that these former DINKs wish to maintain the lifestyle they led pre-children, including holidays.
At the time of the ABS 2011 Census of Population and Housing 60 per cent of 25 to 39 year old women had at least one child – ranging from 38 per cent of 25 to 29 year old women to 79 per cent of 35 to 39 year old women.
Restricting marketing efforts to target couples only, not only reduces the size of the market segment, but impacts on the ability to attract working and reproducing families to move to Tasmania.
With Lonely Planet listing Tasmania as the second most family-friendly travel destination in Australia, it is important to ensure the State delivers on (supply side) expectations. This doesn’t mean creating serendipitous theme parks, but ensuring that tourism providers more adequately provide for positive family experiences. If the kids are happy, the parents will linger longer, spend more and perhaps even move to Tasmania.