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Tourism stories

Waterfront springs into action

Edition 198_CruiseShips

Spring has sprung, and Hobart’s waterfront is gearing up for a bumper tourist season with a record number of cruise ships on the way and a seaplane back on the docks.

Just a short walk from the GPO, Hobart’s working port is in the heart of the action, and that is one of the biggest attractions for the booming cruise ship sector.

“Cruise ship passengers just love stepping off right in the middle of Hobart,” Destination Southern Tasmania CEO, Alex Heroys, says.

And this season, they will be stepping off in record numbers.

Sixty-three vessels are slated to pull into Hobart for the upcoming cruise season, which officially begins when the Sea Princess docks in Hobart on October 4.

That’s an eight per cent increase on 2017–18, which saw 59 cruise ships visit the capital.

“It must be stressed that this isn’t a rapid jump, rather we are on a gentle growth curve of visitation numbers,” Heroys adds.

“Yes, we are attracting more vessels, but we are also attracting more smaller capacity, high-end luxury ships.

“And that means very little change in actual passenger numbers.”

While Hobart’s upcoming cruise ship season is all but over by April next year, it does not officially end until June as a special Dark Mofo cruise is on the itinerary.

During the 2018-19 season, 180,000 cruise ship passengers will disembark onto Hobart’s waterfront, and that equates to a big boost for the local economy. They are expected to have a direct spend in the order of $30 million.

However, there are longer-term benefits also.

Given just a quick taste of Hobart, cruise ship passengers often come back for more.

Return visitation levels in the sector are high, with Heroys pointing out that over the past three seasons, an average of about 10,000 previous cruise ship passengers returned for another stay.

“The end goal is to increase our opportunity to showcase Tasmania for return visitation,” Heroys explains.

“Everyone who lives here knows just how stunning Hobart is, but when you see it for the very first time nestled under kunanyi/Mount Wellington, it really is a special experience.”

Meantime, another new player will add to the activity on Hobart’s waterfront this upcoming tourist season.

The seaplane is back, but with a new operator, and a new terminal at King Street Pier.

From November the locally owned business, Above and Beyond, will be offering scenic flights over Hobart, as well as trips down to Port Arthur.

Flights to MonaSaffire and Pumphouse Point will be added shortly, together with a second seaplane.

Above and Beyond is run by father and son team, Gerald and Henry Ellis, who have chosen a classic 6-seater DeHavilland Beaver plane for their Hobart venture.

Gerald Ellis told The Advocate the plane was chosen for its safety and reliability.

“It is very suited to Tasmanian conditions, which are similar to Canadian conditions where the aircraft was designed,” he said.

For four years, Hobart had a seaplane – run by Tasmanian Air Adventures – however, it was grounded in 2015 when the company went into voluntary liquidation.

Tourism leaders are thrilled a seaplane will take off once again.

“There was certainly a demand for a new passenger seaplane company in Hobart,” Tourism Industry Council CEO, Luke Martin, told The Mercury.

“We have a perfect destination for it here in Tasmania. It’s very exciting to see [the seaplane] return.”

In the meantime, as Hobart’s waterfront gears up for a bumper season ahead, there are assurances the city can easily absorb these booming visitor numbers.

“There is no doubt we are gearing up for a busy time ahead, but it is nothing that Hobart can’t handle,” Alex Heroys explains.

“There are nine new hotels coming on line in the city over the next 12 months, so we are well and truly prepared for this increase in visitor numbers.”

Image courtesy of The Mercury

12 September 2018, Edition 198

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