Ms O'CONNOR - Premier, your government makes Tourism Industry Council of Tasmania accreditation mandatory for operators in parks. I do not know if you read the article in The Australian. Multiple concerns have been raised by numerous respected businesses - and I have spoken to operators as well - but those respected businesses include Aardvark Adventures, Par Avion, Tassie Bound Adventure Tours, Bonorong and Wild Cave Tours. A small handful of a much bigger cohort are concerned that the TICT provides no value to them, they disagree with their political actions and yet are effectively forced to pay a membership fee despite the fact the TICT accreditation is irrelevant to their compliance with relevant rules and regulations. Membership of the TICT is also a State Growth requirement for tourism directional signage.
The TICT has been a vocal and aggressive supporter of your government's expressions of interest process. Do you acknowledge there is significant conflict of interest when you set policies that effectively force small business and hospitality operators to pay membership fees to the TICT when these businesses feel they get nothing in return?
How do you justify forcing businesses that disagree with your policies to pay fees to a political lobbying organisation that champions your government's policies?
Mr FITZGERALD - The accreditation program is not membership of TICT. It is a national accreditation framework which exists for tourism operators right across the country. It is a business development initiative to try to provide a range of minimum standards in our sector and it has been around for 20 years now. Organisations do use that; Parks and Wildlife use that as a fast track consideration of who should perhaps operate in national parks.
We do not use it in relation to our marketing activity. You do not have to be an accredited member of the TICT or the national framework to work with us in our programs but where you are operating, it provides those agencies with a form of assurance that you are operating to some sort of fundamental standard.
You do not have to undertake the national accreditation. You can be an ecotourism accredited operator, et cetera. There are other schemes available to you but most people do undertake the national accreditation scheme, which in this state just happens to be administered by the TICT. There are various arrangements around the country, most of which have been with industry councils of that nature.
Ms O'CONNOR - Through you, Premier, and it is interesting that you raise that because the Great Barrier Reef which is the other world heritage property in Australia will not accept accreditation from the Queensland Tourism Industry Council. It seeks entities that want to operate in the park to be accredited either with Ecotourism Australia or EarthCheck, which I understand TICT used to be a member of until not long after the EOI process came to life.
How do you explain the Great Barrier Reef won't allow operators in there who do not have Ecotourism accreditation but in Tasmania it is fine if the Tourism Industry Council wants to give the tick to any old operator to work inside our parks?
Mr GUTWEIN - I do not think that the Tourism Industry Council is giving the tick to any old operator and again -
Ms O'CONNOR - Okay, I am being slightly glib but it is not an ecotourism accreditation.
Mr GUTWEIN - You are being very glib. Regarding the Great Barrier Reef, at the end of the day how they position and market themselves is a matter for them -
Ms O'CONNOR - I guess the point is it is about ecotourism.
CHAIR -Ms O'Connor, the Premier is answering.
Mr GUTWEIN - The motivations of why they do that is a matter for them and how they position themselves in the market.
Ms O'CONNOR - My understanding is that the reason they have gone down that path is because they want integrity of their accreditation. When they talk about being an ecotourism world heritage area they mean it, whereas the problem that you have is that your government does not understand what ecotourism really is.
Mr GUTWEIN - I cannot comment on their mindset.
Ms O'CONNOR - Premier, we have established that the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Authority demands a higher standard of operators who work inside -
Mr GUTWEIN - I don't know if we have established that. That's a point you have raised.
Ms O'CONNOR - The Great Barrier Reef Authority requires operators to have Ecotourism Australia certification. In Tasmania it is an industry-led body, the Tourism Industry Council, which has had at least half a dozen operators walk away from it in recent months. I want to read to you a couple of statements from these operators.
That accreditation, the TICT, is a waste of time. You could be the shonkiest operator but all you have to do is fill out forms. No-one comes to look at your processes.
Par Avion is concerned, also boycotting the TICT accreditation, and says they are concerned about the aggressive stance on contentious proposals. Wild Cave Tours says:
The TICT is openly, politically speaking up in favour of tourism infrastructure that threatens the value of the world heritage property that I work on.
Fiona Weaver of Tassie Bound Adventure Tours told the Australian:
Tourism operators who did not support TICT or value its accreditation were being coerced into it by government. We cannot be licensed operators with Parks and Wildlife without being TICT accredited.
If it is good enough for the Great Barrier Reef Authority to demand a higher standard of accreditation for operators in our World Heritage Area, why isn't it good enough for Tasmania, and can you reassure tourism operators that if they obtain Ecotourism Australia certification, that they will be allowed to operate inside parks, because that is not what Parks is telling them now?
Mr GUTWEIN - I will ask John to make some comments on that.
Ms O'CONNOR - Are you at all concerned about the state of the TICT?
Mr GUTWEIN - Regarding those concerns you have raised, it is the first I have been aware of those.
Ms O'CONNOR - It is in The Australian.
Mr GUTWEIN - Well, I try to read as much and as regularly as I possibly can, but I haven't read that article.
Mr FITZGERALD - Maybe it does not tell the full story, but the national accreditation framework - let's call it that, because it is not the TICT's, it is just administered in Tasmania - has an eco-plus component that people can register for, so the operators can attain a higher standard of eco accreditation and it is free to do that. You can imagine operating on the Great Barrier Reef. Not every tour operator operates in the same way in Tasmania.
Ms O'CONNOR - No, you can't build a lodge on the reef.
Mr FITZGERALD - EarthCheck is a private scheme. It is a commercially owned company that was a spin-off from the Sustainable Tourism CRC that I once worked for. They provide a range of programs for the Great Barrier Reef as we do in Tasmania, so the operator has the choice.