Visitor Engagement Program

Bruny Island

Kingborough Council is obtaining $1.5M from the Department of State Growth for public infrastructure improvements on Bruny Island.  These have been drawn from the Tasmanian Government’s “Visitor Economy Roads Package” that was an $8M election commitment for Bruny Island (most of which is to be spent on the sealing of the Main Road between Alonnah and Lunawanna).

While most of this $1.5M is proposed to be spent on physical infrastructure improvements, it is also proposed to allocate some funds to the provision of visitor information.  Such information would aim to both enhance the visitor experience and to communicate some important messages that aim to minimise the impact on the local Bruny island community and natural environment.

The Bruny Island Destination Action Plan leadership group has been requested to consider the visitor information opportunities – consistent with the original DAP and other studies (eg Bruny Liveability Study and the Village Well recommendations) – and is proposing the development of a structured Bruny Island Visitor Engagement Program (BIVEP).

The focus of the program is to identify what we are trying to communicate to visitors and how.   It is particularly important that the visitor understands what is special about the place they are visiting.  Only then, will the visitor get the most out of coming to Bruny Island and understand the importance of minimising their impact.

The objective is that there be a win-win for both visitors and residents.  The visitors should be able to obtain a very enjoyable experience and have their expectations fully met, while the residents obtain the economic and social benefits that sustainable tourism will bring to the Island.   Visitor information therefore needs to be provided in a way that educates and informs the visitor in the most interesting way possible.  In fact, in order to fully enjoy any visit to Bruny Island, it should be generally acknowledged that it is necessary to learn more about its natural features, history and people.  It should be regarded as a place that visitors can only really appreciate if they slow down and spend the time to understand what they are looking at.

As an Island at the bottom of the world, it should be a place where both visitors and residents can experience a slower way of life or even a feeling of escaping from the turmoil of large cities and world conflict.  It provides an opportunity for people to become absorbed in the Island’s interesting natural and human heritage and understand the importance of protecting such places as this.  It would require a slower or more restful form of tourism that encourages visitors to spend more time on the Island.

As a consequence of this, the aim would be for locals and visitors to co-exist and interact more with their shared experiences.  Visitors will come to Bruny because of this.  The differences between the visitor destination and a home for the local residents would be reduced.  This should be able to be achieved more on an Island where both visitors and locals are each seeking their own common forms of “escape”.  Bruny Island becomes more of a shared space.

This then becomes the basis for a visitor engagement program and how information should be communicated.  The most effective way of doing this is likely to be in the form of “stories”.

The potential for this on Bruny is limitless.  Every place has layers of stories to be told – from the Traditional Custodians, early explorers and colonisers, recent events, and environmental and current issues.  There are both tragic and humorous tales to be told.  They all build an appreciation of the place and an understanding of why it needs to be cared for.

The BIVEP aims to develop a framework within which these stories can be told and Bruny Island be properly interpreted and appreciated.  It needs to complement the other visitor information programs that are in place – particularly those that are given some official standing or acknowledgement by government.

How are we doing this?

A consultant (‘For The People’) has been employed to facilitate this process and this will be overseen by the DAP leadership group.  Widespread community support is critical in ensuring the success of any such program.  The Bruny Island community must be actively involved in order for the many interesting stories to be told.  There are many local people who are keen to do this and a process needs to be in place where this can occur as easily as possible.

The Bruny Island community invites, receives and hosts visitors for a limited time in order to receive well understood social and economic benefits (employment, services, shops, school, restaurants etc).  Tourism operators need to work closely with the local community and mechanisms may need to be established to allow this to occur in an acceptable manner.  For example, tourist activities and infrastructure should respect, conserve, value and defend the natural resources, environment and biodiversity of the Island, as well as the cultural and social norms of the Bruny Island resident community.

There are limits in the carrying capacity of the Island, particularly in regard to the natural environment.  This will need to be conceptually considered in the type of information provided and the way the Island is marketed.  The Ferry is an important part of this in that it serves as a constraint on the number of potential visitors and provides a good initial opportunity to reach all of the visitors.  The short journey provides the best chance to communicate the most essential messages (don’t litter, take your time, drive safely etc).  Ultimately though, the focus should be on providing interesting, accessible and well-presented information on what makes Bruny Island so special.  Anything less than this will not cut through to the visitor.