9 December 2022

Can Canberra be a global destination? New strategy says we already have what it takes

| Ian Bushnell
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National Museum

Canberra: world-class institutions in a beautiful natural setting. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

Canberra will play to its natural strengths as the national capital and home to world-class institutions in a bid to become a global destination, under a new tourism strategy launched this month (Sunday, 4 December).

Floored by the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, Canberra’s tourism industry has been rebounding and the ACT Government’s T2030: ACT Tourism Strategy 2023-2030 says international visitor levels to the ACT are expected to rebound to 2019 levels by 2026, and increase by 363,000 visitors a year by 2030.

The strategy aims to sustainably grow the value of the visitor economy to $3.1 billion by 2025, and $4b by 2030, including both overnight and day-trip expenditure from visitors.

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It expects the ACT to return to the pandemic level of $2.5b in overnight visitor expenditure by 2026.

The strategy aims to add more than 4000 jobs to the tourism industry, up from 18,500 to 22,750, and seeks to directly connect Canberra to more cities domestically, and internationally, by air.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr has been vigorously promoting new air links with New Zealand and the Pacific, as well as lobbying for the return of Singapore Airlines to Canberra.

The strategy does not set out to reinvent the wheel but develop a distinctive Canberra brand focusing on the ACT’s natural assets, reputation for sustainability and institutions such as the National Gallery, National Museum and Australian War Memorial.

Integral to this will be the pipeline of large-scale projects underway or planned, such as the War Memorial expansion, the development of the Ngurra Cultural Precinct at Reconciliation Place, the Canberra Theatre Centre redevelopment and the Kingston arts precinct.

The strategy says the Canberra region can develop iconic destination experiences through these cultural attractions but also its festivals, food and wine offerings, Indigenous cultural experiences and natural environment.

It also envisages Canberra as a business hub.

To do this, the ACT will require 1.76 million additional airline seats (inbound and outbound) at 80 per cent load factors, 776 new rooms at 75 per cent occupancy and 22,750 people employed in the tourism sector.

The strategy aims to raise the profile of current and future attractions, and promote the ACT to its strongest domestic and international markets.

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In Australia in the next two years, the ACT will focus on Sydney, regional NSW, Melbourne, regional Victoria, and Brisbane and south-east Queensland.

Internationally, New Zealand, Singapore, the UK, and the US will be targeted, with other key Asian markets to be reassessed as COVID-19 restrictions ease.

Mr Barr said the Government would release a series of action plans to achieve the strategy’s goals, the first of which in early 2023.

“We want visitors to our city to leave with a greater appreciation for Canberra and to feel fulfilled, educated and wanting to tell others about the quality of the diverse experiences on offer,” he said.

“We also want visitors to think about our city and region as a great place to live, study, work and invest, with a reputation as progressive, inclusive and welcoming to all.

“The ACT Government will continue to work with our local tourism industry to create the right settings to enable sustainable growth and address challenges facing the tourism sector, such as the attraction and retention of skilled staff.”

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Canberra used to be a great place to live and raise a family, about 30 years ago. Now (thanks to awful ALP/greens government) it’s become a horrible commercialised place (full of ugly shoebox apartments everywhere) with a terrible education system and worst healthcare and hospital system in the country. Canberra used to be a pretty city (nice homes and gardens, people caring about each other), but too much multiculturalism has unfortunately changed how it used to be and it’s now like living in a ghetto. Most visitors comment on how ugly Canberra has become, and the tramline through the main city certainly hasn’t helped the look of Canberra. Any visitor coming here would want to be careful they don’t get sick, as they will be waiting 2 days at the hospital to receive so-called ‘medical care’.
Appalling services, corrupt government and horrible people = Canberra.

HiddenDragon9:38 pm 05 Dec 22

“Global destination” is pure fantasy.

Aside from some one-off head of state visits, even major international government events are typically held elsewhere, presumably because Canberra is so tinpot compared to the major and even mid-level capitals in other countries. It is not exactly a world-class showcase for the country as a whole, and still looks more like a politico-bureaucratic theme park dropped into the middle of the Australian bush.

The best hope for greater global recognition beyond the curiosity (in the eyes of many foreigners) that it, not Sydney, is the national capital might lie in a really major event held every few years.

A lake, with a few islands, one of which is graced with an interesting tower, and a few languid willows here and there, could serve as a very nice setting for an Arthurian festival, culminating in Excalibur emerging from those murky waters.

I was brought to Canberra in 1963. Canberra was a great place to be brought up and educated. As an adult I have spent time away overseas and lived in Adelaide, Alice Springs, Brisbane and down the south coast (Bega, Tathra way). Occasionally came back and the only reason I stay here is because my daughter is in the APS. If she left I see no reason to stay. Canberra has changed (and not for the better). My wife waited six hours at Canberra Emergency Department recently to been seen for heart issues (the staff were busy and very good). When we have holidays with my daughter we go to Sydney and Melbourne for the shows and concerts (and shopping), New Zealand, Tasmania, Queensland, Western Australia and Europe. Canberra has some great National Institutions but once you been there a couple of times it runs out of spark. I have had visitors from interstate and overseas and they only stay a day or two after visiting the Arboretum, National Gallery and National Museum and then are off to other parts of Australia. Sorry to disappoint. Am I missing something?

As the saying goes, you can see everything by lunchtime & die of boredom by dinnertime!

Tom Worthington5:10 pm 05 Dec 22

Canberra can’t be a global destination, but could be a side trip for those visiting Sydney. Canberra could be sold as a quiet respite from Sydney, and as a more cerebral experience.

Mathew Richards5:03 pm 05 Dec 22

Barr and the Greens are a joke, They fail in every aspect of government that the residence of Canberra need and want. No decent convention centre to attract international conferences. An outdated sporting stadium that we can no longer attract international competitions. What do we get a failing social need, health, education and policing. What do we get, a train set to the south. The tram to Gungahlin was funded by the developement of vacant land that they made millions from. What land is available between Civic and Woden to recoup the same. Just another Green/Labor folly. Uncosted, no final date for completion and no cost benefit.

Don’t bother until you fix the traffic chaos from raising London Circuit for the new little bit of light rail. It’s enough trouble for locals, but the impression for visitors will be awful.

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