Monday, April 2, 2012




A Response to the Main Report for Launceston Strategic Tourism Plan prepared for Launceston City Council by A. Stafford & Associates Pty Ltd February 2012 The paper has been prepared in response to Council's call for ratepayer feedback 


Ray Norman    Monday, 2 April 2012


Museums are amazing places invested with layers of cultural knowledge and cultural property. Likewise museums and art galleries have enormous and multidimensional Communities of Ownership and Interest (COI) ratepayers in Launceston, researchers, taxpayers, donors, sponsors, et al – albeit that all too often museums' and art gallery's COI's various attachments to these places of the muse go unacknowledged. These COIs also constitute the primary audience for museums' and art galleries' programs and projects.

The report – click here to access the report – prepared for Launceston City Council by A. Stafford & Associates Pty Ltd – – in respect to tourism in the city/municipality/region pays scant attention to cultural tourism in particular it makes an almost cursory acknowledgement of the Queen Victoria Museum & Art Gallery

However, in a peripheral sense the report does touch upon issues that might be included in an assessment of cultural tourism in the city/region. Nonetheless, the report does not address the issue of cultural tourism in any substantial way. 

Given the city’s/region’s history and heritage this seems to be a significant oversight or shortfall. The report does however gather together significant data relevant to cultural tourism albeit that its relevance to the phenomena seems by-and-large to have been either ignored or down played. Against the evidence that arguably the city/regions largest investment in infrastructure relevant to tourism is the Queen Victoria Museum & Art Gallery, all of this is somewhat puzzling. 

It is worth noting that: 
  1. The estimated value of the collections the QVMAG holds is in the order of $250 million
  2. The replacement value of the buildings the institution occupies is likely to exceed $40 million(?);
  3. The QVMAG, as an operation, has an annual recurrent budget is in the order of $5 million; and consequently 
  4. The lion’s share of this budget – $3 million plus – comes directly from Launceston’s ratepayers with the remainder coming from the Tasmanian State Government except for corporate and private sponsorships that generally fund the institution's acquisitions. 
It is worth noting that in Tasmania recently cultural tourism has proven to be a more than significant drawcard for the state’s tourism. Hobart’s MONAMuseum of Old and New Art – has demonstrated, and in a spectacular way, the contribution cultural tourism can make to the marketing of tourism in Tasmania. Indeed, MONA attracted an average of one thousand visitors a day for 2011 – many of whom were attracted to Hobart and the museum from interstate and overseas via ‘social networking’. By any measure – nationally or internationally – this is a very impressive tourism marketing outcome. 

It is also worth noting that Arts Tasmania has been working with Tourism Tasmania towards developing a cultural tourism policy for Tasmania. Indeed Arts Tasmania is on the cusp of releasing a report on this matter. For whatever reason, Stafford & Associates does not seem to have made the connections here that they might have been expected to do. This seems to be, in some measure, an inherent weakness in their report.

Albeit that it may well be argued that there is more to be done, Launceston, and Tasmania more generally, have clearly made a significant investment in the city/region’s cultural infrastructure and thus cultural tourism – significantly invested in the QVMAG over 120 years. Stafford & Associates overlooking all this in large part points to a couple of likely assumptions in regard to their findings. 

Firstly, it may be the case the QVMAG is not (was not?) seen as a significant tourism drawcard. Secondly, it is possible that city’s/community’s investment in the institution to date has been perceived to have NOT been directed towards, or relevant to, tourism outcomes. If either is the case, such assumptions need to be refuted, and vigorously.


Cultural tourism needs to be understood as a subset of tourism and one primarily concerned with ‘placedness’a place’s cultural manifestations and its sense of place

Specifically cultural tourism is concerned with the lifestyle of the people in those geographical areas, the history of those people, their art and cultural production, architecture, religion(s), and other elements that have contributed to the shaping a community’s way of life and the cultural landscape in which it exists. 

Cultural tourism includes tourism in urban areas – cities and their cultural facilities such as museums and theatres. In rural areas it may focus upon showcasing the traditions of the region (i.e. festivals, rituals), and their values and lifestyle. It is generally agreed that cultural tourists spend substantially more than standard tourists

This dimension of cultural tourism is also becoming more popular internationally, and a recent OECD report has highlighted the role that cultural tourism can play in regional development in different world regions.


Cultural tourism has been defined as "the movement of persons to cultural attractions away from their normal place of residence, with the intention to gather new information, and new experiences, to satisfy their various aspirations – cultural, social, educational etc."

Recently, specialists who look at the marketing of cultural tourism, suggest that the concept of cultural tourism should be more closely scrutinised than has been the case in the past for two reasons. 

First and foremost, and generally, ‘culture’ all too often seems to be a concept that’s applied only to Indigenous communities as representative stereotypes. 

Likewise, cultural tourism can all too often be characterised as a new way of continuing the colonisation between ‘the centres of power’ and their peripheries. Thus in its worst manifestations, cultural tourism tends to lead to a narrow ethnocentric construction of ‘exotic otherness’

Clearly cultural tourism has its ugly aspects. However, it need not and communities with a well developed sense of place, a connection to place and deep understandings of ‘their place’ have much to offer their visitors. 

Tourism destinations are built upon the things that give a place its own distinctive character and that separate it out from other destinations. These factors are: 
  1. The lifestyle experiences the residents and visitor can enjoy together; 
  2. The communities that can openly share their history and heritage; 
  3. The manner in which the place’s distinct cultural realities are expressed; and 
  4. The place’s geography – its natural and cultural landscape, flora, fauna etc. 
These things are the basic tourism offerings any destination has to offer. Importantly, cultural tourism gives visitors the opportunity to understand and appreciate the essential character of a place and its culture as a whole, including all of the above.

At its best, cultural tourism gives ‘the visitor’ access to information, experience and activities that can help them feel engaged with a place, its people and their heritage. In essence ‘the tourist’ seeks to feel at home albeit elsewhere – and likewise seeks the opportunity to compare and contrast home with elsewhere. Creating relationships of various kinds between the visitor and the host community is an important feature of cultural tourism – and especially so in a marketing context. Furthermore, concepts of sustainability, authenticity, integrity and education are as central to cultural tourism as they are to ecotourism.


Cultural tourism puts the emphasis upon the content of what people do when they are traveling, rather than how they actually get there or where they stay while they are there. 

Cultural tourism is a sophisticated ‘product’ that aims to: 
  • Build upon and market the cultural realities and strengths inherent in, and invested in, a place; 
  • Emphasise the quality and authenticity of the visitor’s experience; and
  • Not to simply describe, but to convey meanings and understandings attached to a place and the stories that belong to it. 
Likewise, cultural tourism needs, and depends upon, personal contact and specialist knowledge in order that communities and their venues/destinations can:
  1. Meet their visitors’ need/quest for knowledge; 
  2. Convey the richness and diversity of a place, its histories, its heritage and the cultural realities to be found within them; 
  3. Be active, rather than passive, in the strategies used to engage both visitors and ‘home’ communities with each other; 
  4. Create new tourism products by engaging with people - it does not depend on high levels of new capital investment;
  5. Recognise and celebrate the dynamic and changing nature of the cultures linked to places; 
  6. Develop dynamic visitor and site management programs; 
  7. Enable the development of interpretation programs designed to engage with, inform, educate and interest visitors;
  8. Minimise the environmental degradation and cultural exploitation which all too often accompany some forms of tourism; 
  9. Identify, target and market to particular interest groups.


Not all cultural products will be tourist attractions. The ability to attract visitors depends on the extent to which they meet, or are able to meet, the following criteria: 
  1. The perceived quality of the tourism product and the visitor’s experience; 
  2. People’s – a market's – awareness of a place being a cultural tourism attraction
  3. The target market’s awareness of ‘the product’ and its potential to meet their expectations and aspirations in a cultural context. 
 Cultural Tourism depends upon:
  1. A customer service mind-set – one that provides the level of facilities and services that meets the needs of its visitors
  2. The sustainability of the product/experience; 
  3. The extent to which the product is perceived as being unique, exceptional and distinctive; 
  4. The extent to which the product is perceived to provide a pleasurable experience and an enjoyable way for visitors to spend their leisure time;
  5. Appropriate development and presentation that enables the potential of the above to be realised; 
  6. Community support, involvement and engagement in the marketing processes; 
  7. Management’s commitment, capability and capacity to deliver on the ‘marketing promises’.


Stafford & Associates’ report makes an important observation in that it points out that Tasmania’s, and by implication Launceston’s, visitors are dominantly drawn from an intrastate basedemonstrated by the pie chart in their report. There are a number of observations that can be drawn from this relative to cultural tourism. 

The first thing to be said is that Tasmanians living south of the ubiquitous 42°S 'north/south divide', and west of the Rubicon, offers Launceston a target audience for cultural tourism that in turn offers opportunities for visitor from such places to explore their ‘Tasmanian-ness’ their relative histories, their comparative heritage, their social networks, etc. – and to access cultural experiences unavailable to them ‘at home’

Furthermore, this target audience offers multiple opportunities to engage with sections of these communities in respect to cultural tourism. This would assist with appropriate planning that in turn would enable Launceston cultural tourism enterprises and programs to achieve multiple visits over time reinforced by word-of-mouth and social network marketing – and also visits of various durations. 

This is not to mention add-on opportunities – restaurant visits, shopping opportunities, supplementary entertainment, etc. – that would benefit from integrated planning based on cultural tourism. 

In addition, there is a much-ignored ‘local population’ overseas students & relatives, international professionals working in Tasmania, et al – for whom cultural tourism opportunities could be attractive. Moreover, there may well be add-on word of mouth benefits to be won via an engagement with this target group with both interstate and international opportunities flowing from this target group. 

Clearly, interstate visitors will be seeking much the same kind of cultural tourism experiences as intrastate visitors. Nonetheless, their expectations and aspiration will be somewhat broader and consistent with this in that they would be exploring their ‘Australian-ness’ in a Tasmanian context. 

The smallest target group could well be expanded upon via cultural tourism if the marketing of targeted overseas visitors is directed towards visitors who are more likely to see Tasmania as being ‘exotic and other’Asian visitors in particular – and looking for cultural experiences. 

Nonetheless, overseas tourists, in general, are sophisticated travelers with sophisticated ‘tastes’. They are however unlikely to be impressed by one-dimensional visitor experiences in an increasingly competitive, and a more and more challenging, market that is sensitive to their needs and aspirations.


Stafford & Associates’ report identifies a variety of challenges to be faced by the city in respect to tourism yet the report is almost silent on the subject of cultural tourismat least in any direct or overt way. If the city/region is to win the benefits to be won by embracing cultural tourism as ‘a product’ there are additional challenges to be addressed other than those identified in the report. They would include: 
  1. Developing the perception that Launceston is a cultural tourism destination alongside other 'branding’ initiatives with the QVMAG being a key exemplar; 
  2. Encouraging the wider community and tourism entrepreneurs to include cultural tourism – directly or indirectly – as an aspect of their understandings of the 'tourism market' in the region as well as within their independent marketing initiatives; 
  3. Addressing the issue of the perceived lack of evening activities, cultural activities, via the encouragement of the development of a cultural calendar including evening activities that would include ‘museum events’ with a cultural focus held at the QVMAG’s campuses, the University of Tasmania plus other community venues; 
  4. Providing leadership in cultural tourism and proactively seeking out cultural tourism advocates to facilitate and promote cultural tourism initiatives for the city and region; 
  5. Addressing the variable levels of professionalism in the region relative relative to cultural tourism and the effective delivery of cultural tourism products; and 
  6. Working collaboratively with regional Councils, Tourism Tasmania, Arts Tasmania, the National Trust and other appropriate organisations, towards developing and enhancing cultural tourism ‘products’ and opportunities in the city/region.


Given Launceston’s citizens’ – ratepayers’ & residents’ – direct investment in the city’s cultural infrastructure and the cultural capital they have invested in the region – conspicuously so in the collections of the QVMAG – Council has a clear role as a cultural tourism advocate to: 
  1. Ensure that cultural tourism is a key component of the ‘Launceston tourism brand’
  2. Proactively promote the QVMAG’s two campuses as cultural tourism venues; 
  3. Ensure that the QVMAG has a Strategic Plan, and supplementary set of policies, that reflects the part the institution plays in the city’s/regions tourism strategies; 
  4. Developing professionally informed strategic initiatives that build upon the city’s/region’s cultural infrastructure and cultural capital – cultural development policies, art-in-public-places policy etc.; 
  5. Ensuring that planning controls and guidelines actively promote, encourage and facilitate cultural initiatives – citizen initiated festivals, events & celebrations, community development projects, etc. ;  
  6. Marketing the city and its environs as a destination that offers a range of culturally oriented tourism opportunities; 
  7. Ensuring that development projects approved by Council enhance the city’s cultural landscaping and placescaping in a cultural tourism context; 
  8. Facilitating investment in the city’s/region’s cultural capital; 
  9. Develop a 'facilitation office' dedicated to smoothing the way in the planning of cultural events –  celebrations, festivals, etc. –  to enable the uninhibited realisation of community initiatives; and 
  10. Develop and promote, as a strategic element of the city's marketing plan,  an cultural events calendar in consultation with community groups et al in order to highlight cultural events taking place in the city/region.


Given that the QVMAG acknowledges the strategic role the institution has to play in regard to tourism in the city/region in general, and cultural tourism in particular, the institution needs to:

  1.  Urgently put in place a strategic plan that acknowledges the institution’s tourism role and opportunities and that identifies specific strategies to be acted upon towards realising the institution’s tourism potential; 
  2. Urgently work towards the installation of a Tasmanian Aboriginal exhibit that celebrates Tasmanian Aboriginal culture and acknowledges the layering of histories – precolonial, colonial and postcolonial – relative to Tasmania’s Aboriginal community; 
  3. Initiate, and seek funding/sponsorships for, a publications program – exhibitions, books, papers, essays, etc. – that explores and interrogates the cultural dimension of Launceston’s/the Tamar region’s/Tasmania’s histories and heritage. 
  4. Initiate, and seek funding/sponsorships for a program of events – lectures, conferences, seminars, symposiums, performances, etc. – that focuses upon the city’s/region’s cultural life and that is proactively inclusive.