Canberra launches major tourism push to diversify economy

Cycling and adventure sports are now a big tourism drawcard. pic: Stromlo Forest Park


Australia’s national capital of Canberra will try and shake off the blues of major public service cuts that have ravaged its local economy by trying to entice more tourists to spend their time and money in the designer city through a major $7.3 million advertising push.

Undeterred by persistent badmouthing by fly-in fly-out federal politicians, Australian Capital Territory Chief Minister Andrew Barr is opening the capital’s destination chequebook to try showcase the Canberra’s other attractions in an effort to try and diversify its economy.

Large fluctuations in public service numbers have for decades acted as an inhibitor to private sector businesses outside of the government realm flourishing in the so-called garden city.

But with a stable population that’s now nudging 400,000 inhabitants, the ACT Government is redoubling efforts to create a more diverse local economy for Canberra that’s largely independent of the public sector and resilient to its peaks and troughs.

Federally administered national major cultural institutions like the National Gallery of Australia still provide a prominent tourism drawcard, however ACT Government is clearly keen to give its other tourist and visitor assets – particularly major events, food and wine experiences and outdoor recreation – a major push.

One of Canberra’s major historical drawbacks for tourists – relatively sparse public transport services – are also finally getting a major boost with increased substantially bus services around the city centre and major institutions.

With most capital cities now in the grip of a serious rise in recreational and commuter cycling, Canberra’s long established network of separated cycleways and dedicated bike infrastructure like the massive Stromlo Park mountain and road bike facility are also getting major improvements to cater to more visitors, including the addition of a pool.

Industry groups are heartily cheering on the Canberra tourism push.

“Tourism is a key driver of the ACT economy, and the Barr Government appears to be embracing the concept of diversifying the Territory economy through greater support of tourism and events,” said Margy Osmond, chief executive of the Tourism and Transport Forum.

Ms Osmond said the Government’s investment of $70 million in public transport, including establishing a free ‘City Loop’ bus service, funding for additional buses and new services, progressing the introduction of an integrated ticketing system and improving walking and cycling infrastructure would benefit the visitor economy.

However it’s the long-awaited commencement of regular scheduled international flights to the city that has the TTF most fired up, especially the potential to attract visitors from Asia, particularly China.

“The key for the ACT Government will be to leverage the new international flights opportunity to its full potential, ensuring that it is the first of many new services that will link Canberra to the burgeoning Asia-Pacific and beyond,” Ms Osmond said.

“Chief Minister Barr has been a strong advocate for the ACT visitor economy with his personal efforts to secure Singapore Airlines as Canberra’s first international airline and the work to attract more Chinese visitors as part of Australia China Business Week.”

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