Venue: National Convention Centre, Canberra
Hon Kristy McBain MP Member for Eden-Monaro, Federal Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories
Malcolm Snow CEO City Renewal Authority
Michael Thomson Head of Aviation Canberra International Airport
Jonathan Kobus Director VisitCanberra
Hon Kristy McBain MP
Member for Eden-Monaro, Federal Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories
The Minster’s electorate is the size of Switzerland and anyone coming to Canberra needs to pass through it. Her responsibility as Minister for Local Government is all 546 local government areas across the country as well as external Territories.
The Minister noted the challenges of living with COVID and paid testament to the industry for the effort so far. The Minster said she is committed to regional Australia and helping these areas pursue opportunities to strengthen local economies and ensure that regions get a fair share of the nation's prosperity. She is thinking about how to reinvigorate the role of the RDA network as part of a new, more collaborative Regional Development policy architecture. The Minister gave a shout out to the RDA’s ACT committee for their efforts.
The Minister cited tourism figures pre and post pandemic and noted the impacts. She noted data from Tourism Research Australia for April 2022 showing expenditure nationally up 31% on April 2019 levels despite visitor numbers still being down. The Minister noted the ACT showed a particularly strong recovery with 65% increase in visitor expenditure, with more money being spent even though there are less visitors.
The Minister noted the ACT region has several key advantages when it comes to tourism, including less seasonal impact helped by the strong arts and culture and education accommodation sectors. The Minister discussed the importance of the national cultural institutions and the school visits program, acknowledging how that program has been hit hard by the pandemic.
The Minister said the Albanese government is:
supporting the visitor economy through a $48 million tourism and travel package plus ongoing implementation of the industry's national long term strategy Thrive 2030 which aims to restore the industry back to pre-pandemic levels by 2024. Senator the Hon. Don Farrell, Minister for Trade and Tourism, is leading this work.
investing $10 million in marketing strategies to attract workers back to the tourism industry
investing $10 million to expand an industry training hub to support new and existing workers
investing $8 million in the quality tourism framework to boost the quality of tourism products
delivering $10 million to help tourism get back into the international market
improve tourism infrastructure through a $10 million grant program to support upgrades in caravan parks.
prioritising the visa backlog to getting seasonal and casual workers back into the country
committed to the local infrastructure program to deliver improvements for the tourism – locally this included upgrades to some of the dirt roads in the National Arboretum to improve accessibility.
The Minister stressed the importance of all three levels of government working together and she commended ACT Chief Minister and Minister for Tourism, Andrew Barr for efforts to revitalise the tourism sector in the ACT, including development of the 2030 Tourism Strategy.
The Minister said consultations are underway to inform the Australian government national cultural policy, which will put the arts at the centre of Australian life and will include actions across all areas of government. It will also put First Nations arts and cultures first and recognise artists as critical workers in our economy. A series of roundtables are being held and written submissions are open until August 22, with the policy to be delivered before the end of the year.
In response to a question about the National Capital Authority budget, the Minister said she can't commit to additional funding but is committed to working openly and collaboratively with the NCA and the ACT government to improve processes.
In response to a question about funding for national institutions, the minister noted the importance of those institutions being able to build, maintain and preserve their collections. She urged Forum members to make a submission to the national cultural policy process.
Chief Executive City Renewal Authority
Mr Snow discussed renewal initiatives which he said will make a tremendous difference to the visitor experience and the tourism sector of the city.
Civic and Culture district
The city centre is undergoing rapid change
The budget announcement this week of $20m funding for redesign of the Canberra Theatre is important and will form part of a cultural precinct in the city - Southbank Brisbane is a good example of how other cities have developed this concept.
The CRA is now consulting with First Nations stakeholders who are a critical voice in the planning and development of this concept.
The broader community will have the opportunity to comment on plans for this precinct development.
Success will be measured through social and economic benefit.
Acton Waterfront project
Now putting finishing touches on boardwalk which will extend the walking/cycling network to Action Peninsula and institutions.
The government has funded a new waterfront park which will be something new for Canberra and a compelling destination for locals and visitors.
Woolley Street upgrade
There is densification and a growing population around the Dickson group centre.
Woolley Street is having a makeover, enabled by government funding for upgrade of significant public spaces, to be followed by upgrades for Lonsdale and Mort streets in Braddon.
Mr Snow said these are good illustrations of place making and place management which is at the core of the CRA work and their program. The CRA recently won an award for work in City Walk. He said public realm public space experience is critical not only for locals, but visitors to the city centre, and ‘getting people to linger longer' – that is, use the spaces rather than walk through.
City Renewal Program 2.0
Mr Snow said this is being informed by the experience and performance of the first program and analysis to understand the new social and economic drivers of a program like this. The CRA is a ‘doing agency’ and will take to government a report on what has and hasn’t worked and use those experiences to reframe another four year program which promotes design quality and community centres.
The CRA continues to work very closely with Visit Canberra and Events ACT to bring the presence of major events into the city centre. They also continue to look for seasonal opportunities. For example, City Illumination increased visitors in the city centre by approximately 40% during the festival on Friday nights. Mr Snow almost discussed Winter in the City, a new fringe festival associated with Summernats and Lunar New Year in Dickson.
Mr Snow discussed a new dashboard tool the CRA is using. It combines a range of datasets to help them understand how the city centre is changing and to get a picture of how city is performing. Mr Snow said the tool is valuable in delivering metrics to provide proof to government of the work being done by the CRA.
In response to a question, Mr Snow said the Act Government has committed $4m to paint the outside of the Sydney and Melbourne buildings. Mr Snow noted the complexities that arise with more than 60 owners in these buildings. The CRA has funded a new conservation management plan and they are seeing owners respond positively and reinvestment by them.
Head of Aviation Canberra Airport
Mr Thomson provided an overview of passenger movements at the Canberra Airport.
For context, the airport averaged 9000 passengers per day in 2019. In October 2021 there was 4500 in the month.
Passenger movements continue to improve and in June there were a few days with more movements than at the same time in 2019. Currently the airport is about 84% of passenger numbers of 2019.
In 2019, there were four carriers flying to seven destinations reflecting a desire to hub through Sydney and Melbourne. Now there are six airlines flying to 12 destinations, so Canberra is more connected than ever before.
There are more domestic services coming:
Jetstar is starting a Canberra - Gold Coast service from mid-September.
There is an important partnership with LINK, which will begin flying to Coffs Harbour from 22 September.
QATAR starts servicing Canberra again from 1 October, flying Doha-Melbourne-Canberra seven days a week.
The airport is still working closely with Singapore Airlines to bring them back.
They are also looking at a South Pacific destination, and New Zealand with a Canberra-Auckland service being explored with a number of carriers.
In response to a question, Mr Thomson said Canberra Airport has worked on reducing wait times at security – it is generally less than a two minute wait time. He said the airport has been very conscious of this to make a good and smooth experience for passengers.
Jonathan Kobus Director Visit Canberra
2030 Tourism Strategy for the ACT - Mr Kobus noted:
the discussion paper is out now, available on the website
submissions close on 2 September
they are looking for broad responses from industry and the community and are conducting a range of consultations including one-on-one and group sessions.
Mr Kobus noted the ongoing challenge for businesses with staffing
The ACT government is working with University of Canberra on research that will help inform and shape programs and policy in response to this issue.
The survey is now live – you can access it via ACT.gov.au/business or see the QR code in the slide presentation.
Mr Kobus encouraged Forum members to complete that survey – it takes approximately 10 minutes.
ACT Tourism budget
Mr Kobus noted the positive investment in the tourism sector in this week’s ACT budget, including new rounds of grants programs for business:
An additional $500,000 for the Tourism Co-operative Marketing Fund, which supports businesses in their marketing.
An additional $500,000 for the Tourism Product Development Fund for businesses to invest in enhancing their product development infrastructure.
Launch dates for these new grant rounds are yet to be announced.
An additional $600,000 was funded for destination marketing along with additional funding for the major events program. Mr Kobus noted the positive response to current campaigns.
The next Tourism Advisory Forum will be on Friday 2 September, 2022.
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