The head of Tasmania’s chief tourism lobby group believes the government should stick to TT-Line’s original proposal for new Spirit of Tasmania vessels.
Appearing before the Public Accounts Committee’s inquiry on the state’s response to coronavirus, Tourism Industry Council Tasmania chief executive Luke Martin said there was no evidence to suggest the work done on the vessel replacement plan was no longer valid.
He said it was hard to argue with the government’s plan to ditch an international shipbuilder to investigate how the ships could be built domestically to aid national and state economies.
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“Whilst everyone would love to see some stimulus from the creation of those ships, ultimately they are about the next 30 years of agriculture and tourism jobs,” he said.
“That is where the sustainable long-term investment is going to happen.”
He said the Spirits were critically important to the tourism sector’s recovery from the pandemic and the new ships, with 40-per-cent more capacity, were needed much sooner than 2028.
“Every time there has been an injection of capacity into the Tasmanian visitor economy … we see an uptake in investment, we see an uptake in visitation,” he said.
Mr Martin said there were already capacity restrains on the boats each summer.
He said the Spirit vessels brought 12 per cent of visitation to the state and 20 per cent of visitor spending before coronavirus.
Mr Martin said visitors arriving to the state via the vessels stayed longer, spent more, and were more likely to venture into the state’s regional areas.
“The airline market is going to be incredibly vulnerable and really uncertain, and in the meantime, we’ve got these two magnificent ships,” he said. “The Spirits are going to be our lifeboat.”
The inquiry resumes on Wednesday.