Canberra’s tourism sector will get a $3.5 million shot in the arm in the upcoming ACT Budget as the Barr Government prepares to launch the biggest-ever domestic marketing campaign for the capital.
More than $2 million will be set aside for the More Than campaign over the next three years, while a further $1.5 million will be spent on a COVID-safe tourism program for the industry. More than was launched in September.
The COVID-safe program will allow tourism providers to apply for matched government funding for projects to help improve the experience of tourists in the capital and create new jobs in the sector.
The campaign will target visitors from Sydney, regional NSW, south-east Queensland, Melbourne and regional Victoria.
The Territory’s $2.5 billion industry had $1.3 billion in overnight visitor expenditure ripped out of it by the pandemic and the preceding bushfire season.
Chief Minister and Minister for Tourism Andrew Barr said the ACT Government was aiming to help the industry recover to its pre-COVID-19 level but acknowledged that the recovery period would most likely extend into 2022 and 2023.
“The return of domestic tourism will be a key pillar of our economic recovery, with around 90 per cent of Canberra’s visitors coming from the domestic market,” Mr Barr said.
Mr Barr said the campaign aimed to get people to spend more in Canberra and not to attract large cohorts of people.
“We are not going for low-spend, mass-market here – that is not the product. We are not the Gold Coast; we are not looking to get a million backpackers here,” he said.
Instead, families, cultural tourists, adventure seekers and nature lovers will be targeted throughout the campaign.
“Those who are looking for a sophisticated city experience but are also able to have both nature and adventure-based tourism within close proximity [will be targeted],” Mr Barr said.
“There is not really another major Australian city with the amenity of hotels, restaurants, transport connections and the like, that has venues within a stone’s throw of the CBD like the Arboretum, Stromlo Forrest Park and Namadgi National Park.
“And we have all of the national cultural institutions that have been absolute mainstays for our city.”
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The ACT Government says it wants to expand the ACT’s overnight visitor expenditure to $3.5 billion by 2030. This includes splitting the ACT’s resources to avoid an advertising “arms race” to outspend other jurisdictions trying to attract domestic travellers.
“That is why we have split [the package] the way we have. We also want to invest in our product because that is a long-term legacy,” Mr Barr said.
“But we recognise at the moment that we need to do both, but the ACT will never be able to spend more money on tourism marketing than NSW, Queensland, Victoria and the other bigger jurisdictions.”
Around 4.7 million interstate visitors travel to the ACT every year, 2.75 million of whom stay overnight. The tourism sector employed 18,500 people at its peak in 2019, just under 10 per cent of the Territory’s workforce.