The Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority’s (PAHSMA’s) success in the 2012 Tasmanian Tourism Awards has been a highlight of a difficult but productive period.
In the 2011-12 financial year PAHSMA had some major achievements, despite a difficult time for the tourism industry and general financial uncertainty.
Visitor numbers at Port Arthur fell slightly, as did overall visitors to Tasmania. Nationally, the market environment continued to be very challenging, with lower consumer confidence many consumers prefer to save than spend and the high Australian dollar making overseas travel more affordable. However, growth from China continued to rise and a record number of cruise ships visited Port Arthur’s deep water anchorage, with eight vessels between October and March.
As a result of the downturn in visitor numbers, PAHSMA revised its 2011-12 budget and implemented various saving strategies. These impacted on both staff and some conservation and infrastructure programs which have been reduced or deferred. Notwithstanding these challenges, an impressive range of tourism and conservation activities have been accomplished.
Early in 2012, a range of new tourism experiences were launched, including Her Story at the Cascades Female Factory, group guided tours of the Coal Mines, Paranormal Investigation Experience and private dining experiences at the Visiting Magistrates House.
Much has been achieved at the Cascades Female Factory, with the Site now open seven days a week, a number of the volunteers transitioning into PAHSMA employees, further recruitment of more volunteers, some substantial work completed in Yard 4 and a greater alignment to the way PAHSMA operates from a conservation, tourism and administration perspective.
The Authority was successful in sourcing additional grant funding from the Commonwealth Government for a major interpretative project in Yard 1, together with completing Yard 4, the outcome of which will provide a much greater understanding for visitors of how the Site worked during the convict period.
At Port Arthur, the Penitentiary has become a key focus with a major conservation project being developed. PAHSMA was very grateful to receive additional funding from the Tasmanian Government during the financial year to assist with this undertaking. The task of sourcing further funds over the next few years for the work required on arguably Australia’s most significant iconic heritage building will be a major challenge for the organisation.
A Conservation Management Plan for the World War 1 Memorial Avenue was completed with significant input from various stakeholders, and a walkway between the trees erected providing added protection and better access for visitors to this significant area of the Site.
PAHSMA’s Community Advisory Committee continued to make a sound contribution to the Site with this group taking a leading role with both the Annual Boxing Day wood chopping event and the Port Arthur Memories Revisited weekend held in October 2012.
PAHSMA Chairman, Dr Barry Jones, praised the PAHSMA Board and staff for its results in what has been undeniably a difficult year.
“Despite the problems, the conservation work and tourism activities undertaken by the Authority continue to ensure all the organisation’s obligations have been met in exemplary fashion,” said Dr Jones.
“The Sites continue to be protected and promoted to visitors in keeping with international best-practice, to meet its obligations in running three World Heritage properties, Port Arthur itself, the Coal Mines at Saltwater River, and the Cascades Female Factory Historic Site.”
“Port Arthur’s awards for Best Major Attraction and Best Heritage Tourism, as well as Best New Tourism Development, are testament to the focus and hard work of the entire team.”
PAHSMA’s annual report has been tabled in Parliament.