And so, the ACT Government weeps and gnashes it’s well worn teeth about the deplorable state of tourism in the Territory, but can’t seem to get it’s head around what steps would be needed to improve Canberra’s failed image as a business and tourist destination.
Many quick and easy plans have been bandied about, but none seem to hit the mark on a sustainable tourism industry. It seems the Canberra tourism industry can’t seem to capture any particular market. There are plenty of venues and many interesting to the business tourist, but sustainable numbers are lacking.
The holy grail of Canberra events, Floriade, is becoming a bit on the nose and attending numbers are beginning to show a steady decline year after year. I’ve always felt the massively damaging attempt to charge admission to Floriade was the beginning of it’s end as a novelty venue. Subsequent enlightenment on the plummeting attendance numbers made the event free once again, but the damage was done. Another problem with the reliance on Floriade as a tourist attraction is the limited audience. Floriade works well for Australia’s ageing population and especially, the Gray Nomads. But there are several pieces of necessary infrastructure missing. The same missing pieces that stifles the tourism industry across the border in the Lake George region.
Canberra and the neighbouring region lack vision in how to cater to the many tourists who might find it an interesting area to explore. Not only do they lack vision, their fattened bureaucracy lacks the ability to allocate funding in the proper direction to fix the glaring problems they’ve allowed to fester.
First and foremost, the region needs a better system of public transport to allow the tourists to access the fine venues that already exist. A light rail has been proposed, but it will become a bureaucratic nightmare and will be far too limited in it’s network to be of any practical use. A better use of rail funding would be an automated monorail system, which in itself would be a tourist attraction. The Sydney Monorail System works well, but was created on a far too small scale to be of any real use. Canberra, on the other hand, is laid out perfectly for a monorail network that could service the City, Woden, Tuggeranong, Gungahlin, Belconnen, Molonglo and the Airport. No level crossings to disrupt vehicular traffic and the entire system could be timed and automated with minimal infrastructure changes to the city.
Northbourne Avenue, Limestone Drive, Belconnen Way, Adelaide Ave, Parkes Way, Canberra Ave, Tuggeranong Parkway just to mention a few of the possible routes a quiet, rubber wheeled monorail people mover could take. Joining major bus terminals would be easily planned and the ability to move tourists from one end of the city to the other and perhaps even into neighbouring New South Wales would fast and efficient.
Another missing piece of infrastructure is a place for the Gray Nomads to park their caravans and trailers, while still allowing them the ability to see the Nations Capital. One of the reasons Canberra is given a wide berth is the inability for Mum and Pop to be able to park their caravan and jump on a people mover to see the sights and sample the delights of Canberra.
If the infrastructure for a people mover existed, some sort of caravan park facility could be created on the outskirts of Canberra, perhaps near Exhibition Park, to cater for the Gray Nomad.
What about the Business Tourist? Well, there are plenty of hotels with exorbitant stay rates, but little or no reason to come to Canberra, unless you happen to be doing business with either the local or Federal Government. There are just no venues to attract the business person to Canberra. There isn’t a decent convention centre, there is no fine dining and there is no entertainment which might attract visitors to the city.
The ACT Government would have been wise to direct funding into an airport based Convention/Hotel facility, rather than allow a discount retail warehouse to use up valuable land area. Envision the conventioneer stepping off the aircraft to a people mover that takes him or her to the Airport Hotel with it’s adjoining travellator tunnel to the Airport Convention Centre.
Or perhaps stepping onto the automated monorail system that whisks them and their bags to one of the City based hotels, not far from a new and regulated restaurant and entertainment district.