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What it’s like to live in ‘virus free’ Tasmania.

The following article appeared last weekend in the national newspaper The Australian.

Context: The paper is owned by News Corp, part of Rupert Murdoch family media. The WSJ and Times of London are of the same group. The paper is considered to be Centre right and conservative. Both major political parties in Australia are considered centre and have tried to work together on this virus issue. The article is behind a pay wall, so I have posted most of it.

The writer Mark Ritson is a former marketing professor. He has a PhD in Marketing and works as an international brand consultant. He has been voted Professional Publishers Association Business Columnist of the Year in the UK three times. Like me, and others, has moved to live in Tasmania for the lifestyle on offer.

In this article, approached from a marketing perspective, he briefly considers the issues of health versus economic benefits of tourism. I vacillated about posting this as it may appear to be bragging and maybe pontificating. But I think it has merit. In an era when concern is being raised about over tourism, this tin pot little island maybe the start of value adding by limiting tourism. Tasmania is not aggressively seeking international tourists, though those who come are normally welcomed and well treated. It is not easy or cheap to get to from outside Australia.

New Zealand, Cook Islands, Tahiti, and some other south west Pacific islands are also currently virus free.

Stay safe.

Regards
Ron.

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By MARK RITSON, JULY 20, 2020

How are you holding up Mark? That is the inevitable question that precedes the video calls that make up a big part of my, and probably your, working day. Whether the online meeting is with managers in Sydney or Seattle, the small talk at the start of the call always kicks off with the same friendly inquiry.

And each time I give the same answer and get the same curious response from those on the other end of the line. “I live in Tasmania,” I explain. “We are very, very lucky.” Lucky because there aren’t any face masks to be seen in the local community. Lucky because you can get a beer and a meal pretty much as normal. And lucky because everyone, even my octogenarian in-laws, are relaxed enough to do their weekly shopping in Hobart without a second thought about COVID-19 or the perils associated with it.
Tasmania is free of the virus. The last case was identified more than two months ago. And most restrictions have eased to the point where life on the Apple Isle has returned to almost normal. (A couple of days later a woman in guarded quarantine tested positive. My insert.)

With one exception. The borders remain closed. Aside from essential travellers and residents returning home to a strict 14-day quarantine, nobody gets in.

A month ago, that appeared to be coming to an end. Premier Peter Gutwein announced restrictions would ease on July 24 and interstate travel would resume. But as the number of COVID-19 cases exploded in Victoria and began to tick up across several other hotspots, the Premier abruptly reversed his decision. “As a result of what’s happening in Victoria, we will not open on the 24th and for a period of time after, we will not open to them at all,” Gutwein said at a press conference this month.

The about-turn has not hurt the Premier’s popularity. Quite the reverse: 93 per cent of Tasmanians are satisfied with his performance. The same whopping proportion also think he is handing the coronavirus well with only 5 per cent of local people rating his COVID-19 response in the negative. Contrast that with Daniel Andrews where 25 per cent of Victorians are now unhappy with their state’s response. Gutwein is smashing it.

(A limited lifting of border restrictions may happen on 7th August.) Recent polls show between 59 per cent and 78 per cent of Tasmanians favour continued border closure.

This has sparked a growing tension with the state’s tourism sector. Tourism Industry Council Tasmania chief Luke Martin claims 350 jobs are lost for every week the borders remain closed. “Tasmania can’t live in a bubble forever, because sooner rather than later we will run out of oxygen,” Martin recently claimed. “Businesses are closing. People are hurting. The only way to fix this jobs crisis is to open our state’s borders.”

He has a point. Tasmania’s tourism industry accounts for about 10 per cent of the gross state product and 15 per cent of total employment.

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This week’s decision on Tasmania’s borders is increasingly framed by the contrast between the needs of the local population versus those of the local economy. For health and safety reasons borders should stay closed. For trade and tourism reasons they should open immediately.

But the trade argument for open borders is not quite as persuasive as it first seems. Too often in Australia we see only the short-term revenue argument as the commercially prudent approach and miss the longer, more enduring implications that smarter business minds would focus on. There is a considerable argument that keeping Tasmanian borders closed for a while longer will benefit tourism and interstate trade, more than opening them right now. To get that point, you must first understand the Tasmanian brand.

Consider a generic bottle of mineral water. It has no additional meanings other than hydration.

What if it is Australian bottled water? Still nothing. Now, how about Tasmanian bottled water? Suddenly it’s a different proposition. The water will seem purer. It will be perceived to be slightly different from the regular, mainland options. And it will have a bit of an artisan, smaller, quality feel to it. That is the value of Tasmanian origin to the many products, services, and experiences that the State offers. From oysters, to beer, to weekend vacations. Tasmania offers something purer, something artisanal, and something very different from the mainland.

Seen this way, it is apparent that while keeping the island closed might well weaken short-term tourism revenues, it will ultimately strengthen the longer-term perception and enduring demand for all things Tasmanian.

Keeping the state closed is consistent with its brand. Tasmania is pure and remains free of COVID-19. It is different from the mainland and the troubles that bedevil it. And when this awful period of infection ends, the position of Tasmania and its prominence and strength in the mind of Australian consumers will propel it to even greater levels of demand and price insensitivity as a result. Like a Michelin-starred restaurant or Italian luxury brand, being denied access in the short term will only drive demand in the long.

The era when Tassie was the source of sly jokes about inbreeding is long over. It is already widely perceived as an aspirational place. If Premier Gutwein is as smart an operator as I think he is, the borders will remain closed for a significantly longer period. Not despite the interests of local trade and tourism, but because of them.

Article ends.

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Question on @Quora: What are the pros and cons of living in Tasmania, Australia? https://www.quora.com/What-are-the-pros-and-cons-of-living-in-Tasmania-Australia?ch=99&share=273f5fe8&srid=ZLDZb

I've been in Australia off and on and only been to Tasmania on two short visits.
The place is  beautiful if you crave for nature and activities like sight-seeing, hiking and all that nature has to offer.
I've been in different places around the world and Australia is one of them.
I was raised in a big city and Tasmania seems too small for me.
It's nice to hear good things about a particular area--but I also enjoy a deep insight that entails pros and cons that describes a full picture.

Click on the link above to hear what outsiders had to say about Tasmania.

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652 posts

I am in another Covid free Island, Guernsey. Life is totally normal, no social distancing, no masks, no virus. But two week quarantine when arriving here has been in place since March. Total public support as well.

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644 posts

Tasmania is a great place (I used to work there). But the "tourism" sector also wanted to keep the Moonscape (raw red earth in a mining scar that can be seen from the Space Station) of the Mt Lyell Copper Mining District intact as a tourist attraction after the mining... Rather than letting it revegetate naturally.... So I would go with health and safety.....

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11.30PM

@ Caro I like Guernsey. I now spend too much time with a retired dentist from Guernsey watching EPL. Has a daughter there. Keeps me up to date on what is happening on his old patch.

@ NickB natural vegetation is slowly growing back.

@ Rob
Thank you for your comments. All the comments in Quora are valid. Some more cons on Tasmania.

Yes, does not have the vibe of big city life. A sleepy hollow.

Tyranny of distance. One spends a considerable amount of time in a plane to go anywhere. To travel to Europe from the east coast requires on average 21 hours of flight time via Perth and 23 hours via Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, or Dubai. Also a few dollars are needed. Once a big part of my life.

Time differences. Recently I had to get up at 4am on a Sunday to watch Warren Buffet’s AGM presentation live. Always worth it. Have had BRK.A since mid-1980’s. CNBC Squawk box comes on at 10pm in summer. NYSE and NASDAQ open after that.

Quality cultural enlightenment/entertainment is extremely limited. I need to fly 1 ½ hours to Sydney if I wish a half decent performance of Puccini, Verdi, or such at the opera house. Outdoor performance of Carmen on the harbour in the summer of 2017 was outstanding. Or fly to Melbourne for theatrical performances of works by the likes of Webber and Rice, Sondheim etc. Off the agenda now. Good sporting fixtures are few and far between in Hobart. All the good stuff is on the mainland.

When I read Ritson’s piece, I saw an essay on a broader scale of how future tourism everywhere may need to evolve into a more value-added form away from the current lowest price formula. Early in my life I was part of that type of tourism scene. I guess we all read and interpret differently. I am transitioning from the summer into the autumn of my life and do not wish to see this little island overrun like some places in Europe or Asia and am in no way advocating it. It is not everyone’s cup of tea.

I came across Rick Steve’s TV show in the late 90’s. It seemed to me that he was encouraging value tourism and appreciation. I think he still does. I liked the way he developed his business along with strong personal ethics. I present the Steve’s model to people who are seeking help in improving their business. Hope he doesn’t expect royalties.

Rob, Tasmania is not really an attractive place for most young people into partying. Lots of negatives. At the moment one big positive. Freedom from the virus, except for the interstate and international travel restrictions.

I hope things turn out well with you.

Regards
Ron

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Currently my province is C19 free - last case resolved a few days ago, no new cases for 12 days...but - still restrictions AND they are making mask wearing mandatory indoor public places this coming Friday. Sigh. Basically seems like they're gonna open up our 'Atlantic bubble' (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, PEI and Nfld) to unrestricted travel from the rest of Canada - most likely with no 14 day quarantine, as is now in place. As I sit here in 40C humidity contemplating having to wear a mask, I'm glad I'm not working and will just be happy to really limit my outings to what we were doing in March - once a week to the grocery store.

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The place is beautiful if you crave for nature and activities like sight-seeing, hiking and all that nature has to offer.

Yes, this is a big reason I loved Tasmania. Some wonderful hiking on Cradle Mountain, and other local hiking trails throughout the island. Interesting history, friendly people, many artists. I live in a congested city with all its big-city problems. I like to get far, far away from that when I'm on vacation! To each his or her own.

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Thur 10.30 PM. A little delayed in replying. Have been in a mini seminar with some business associates planning what opportunities are likely next year, particularly from free trade agreements with UK and EU.

@Caro. Apologies Caro. Football. English Premier League. My friend is a Wolves fan. Being a sports fanatic, I wrongly assumed it would be known by all in UK and surrounds. In hindsight a rather stupid assumption on my part, should have thought more before I hit the keyboard. Sorry!

@Bugslife
Thank you for your nice words. Actually, was not my reason for moving here but have come to appreciate and enjoy the unspoilt natural environment. Was snowed in at Cradle Mountain Lodge on one occasion. Does not happen often.

@Nicole P
Value your bubble. I hope things come good and the correct decisions get made.

Stay safe. Time is a traveller.

Regards Ron

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26060 posts

are there Wolves fans?

I spent years working the Coventry-Birmingham-Wolves-Walsall corridor and never met any ;)

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Much to my husbands dispare I dont show any interest in sports! But have never hear British media refer to it as EPL. But that could be my lack of interest....

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@Nigel 10PM

Maybe I have come across a nearly extinct species. I have only met 1 Wolves fan. And the recent home games we have watched together have all been with empty grounds. When I told him of your comment this afternoon, he burst out laughing. I guess as most Premier League clubs have overseas owners their fans must be overseas also.

@caro

All I can think of is that it is possibly used by the sports media here to differentiate from the local competitions. Good for you not being seduced by the sports drug. Some of the most ferocious football supporters here are women. They can be really scary.

Stay safe.

Regards
Ron

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26060 posts

Ron, I'd agree that the Premier League is usually spelled out.. I did't recognise EPL either but didn't want to ask an obvious and be embarrassed....

Neighbours of Wolves in the Black Country are WBA - West Bromwich Albion. Now if any of them are around you won't mistake it.

UP the Baggies!!

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@Nigel 8.45 PM

Well now I know at least one West Brom fan. Congratulations on the promotion. Look forwarded to watching the derbies. Hopefully, the supporters will be allowed in for real cheering and singing, instead of the canned variety.

Stay safe.

Regards Ron