Visits on the way up

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THERE has been overwhelming demand for the Tasmanian Government’s visitor vouchers for King Island as tourism begins to bounce back.

In less than 24 hours, the $300 accommodation and experiences voucher ballot received 9400 registrations with a total of 13,638 registrations by the time the online ballot closed on Sunday.

There were just 700 available.

“People were calling our visitor information hotline already planning their trip with the hope that they would win a voucher to make the trip even better,” King Island Tourism said.

The tourism vouchers can be spent on accommodation and experiences on the island during May, June, or July.

Bookings must be made via the King Island Tourism website between April 11 and 20, 2022.

There are 19 different experience providers, providing more than 30 different experiences or products.

Sixteen accommodation providers are using the King Island Tourism website booking function.

The demand for vouchers and an ongoing $100,000 State Government funded marketing campaign, paves the way for a busy winter tourist season for the island.

Operators had been counting the cost following a downturn in visitation and a raft of cancellations following advice to avoid travel to King Island during a Covid outbreak earlier this year.

Many operators have reported that bookings have rebounded during February and March, and they are heavily booked.

Restaurants have also seen a steady increase in patrons during February and March, and takeaway orders seem to be reducing.

King Island Tourism president Adam Hely said the signs were positive.

“Tourism has bounced back strongly in the past couple of months with accommodation and experiences being well patronized by both Tasmanian and interstate visitors,” Mr Hely said.
“The biggest hurdle for most operators is having adequate staff to cater for the increased demand.”

Mr Hely, who runs a car hire business, said the strong demand had seen a shortage of places to stay.

“We have had cancellations as people who have booked flights and cars cannot find accommodation,” he said.

The operators whose business model concentrates on tours and groups have a longer sales cycle than the businesses focussed on a weekend or short stay escape.

A group booking may have been in the planning and organising for up to six months or even longer for some groups. One owner explained the challenge of finding enough workers.

“Staff employed for the peak season were let go and now with increased small number demand it is impossible to find casual staff to help during the days we do have customers,” they said.

These operators are hopeful that they will see benefits from the Tasmanian Tourism marketing campaign if not in the winter season, in the last quarter and into next year.

At the time the vouchers were announced, then Premier Peter Gutwein said the program included a marketing campaign to target both Tasmanian and interstate visitors encouraging them to travel to the island in the shoulder and the traditionally quieter winter season.

“We acknowledge that King Island has faced some challenges due to COVID-19 earlier this year, and this voucher program is part of a suite of travel initiatives for King Island implemented as part of our COVID-19 recovery support,” Mr Gutwein said.

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