A commercial trekking company in Tasmania has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the state government for the marketing costs associated with an exclusive private walk, the Three Capes Track, which it operates in southern Tasmania.
- The Tasmanian Walking Company is the only commercial operator authorized to offer the Three Caps walk of several days
- An agreement between the company and the state government allows it to charge the government for marketing costs
- The invoices include the costs of floral arrangement, “miscellaneous work” and the positioning and development of the Tasmanian Walking Company brand.
Information obtained by the ABC via a right to information request shows that the Tasmanian Walking Company has billed the government just over $ 300,000 for marketing fees since 2019.
He was paid $ 126,000 for marketing activities carried out last year as the tourism industry experienced a significant downturn due to border closures.
The Tasmanian Walking Company is the only commercial company authorized to organize guided tours through the Three Cape Trail.
Signed in 2016, the rental and licensing agreement between the company and the state government provided that the company could charge the government for “marketing costs reasonably and properly incurred by the operator.”
A marketing program is drawn up each year by the company and the Ministry responsible for Parks.
This can include things like event management, signage, TV commercials, and hosting journalists, travel writers, and social media commentators.
Examples of billboard and signage concepts in marketing plans show an advertisement that includes the Tasmanian Walking Company logo, but no government markings.
The company said the deal requires actual ads to be co-branded.
Invoices sent to the government include the cost of flower arrangements and live music at the launch of the company’s Three Capes Lodge Walk.
Also included are the Tasmanian Walking Company’s “brand positioning and development” and “miscellaneous work” charges.
The individual amounts paid for these itemized charges have been censored.
Company says it contributes millions to the economy
A spokesperson for the Tasmanian Walking Company said their agreement with the government allows them to “claim a portion of the fees that have been paid.”
“All costs are directly associated with fees already paid, without any government funding,” they said in a statement.
The business pays $ 50,000 or 5% of its profits, whichever is greater, for the lease and license to operate.
It costs between $ 1,795 and $ 3,395 for the walk, or walkers can go independently, staying in public huts, for around $ 500.
The agreement with the government says the company cannot charge more for marketing costs than it paid for its lease and license, but can charge up to that amount.
This would mean that he could recover the costs paid to the government for the park fees.
The spokesperson said the company injected millions of dollars into the Tasmanian economy through tourism and employment.
“The Tasmanian Walking Company contributed 2.5 times more than what we claimed in park fees,” the spokesperson said.
“This collaborative approach to promoting Three Capes can be attributed to providing more than double the expected number. “
Taxpayers “slugged” for marketing: the Greens
Greens leader Cassy O’Connor called the deal “disgusting.”
“Not only is the Tas Walking Company gaining extremely cheap access to one of the country’s most iconic coastlines, it is going after the public purse for its promotions and marketing,” she said.
“Nature lovers saw the Liberals giving away real estate in national parks to developers for free, and now they are giving them public money.”
Other bush trekking companies contacted by the ABC said they had not made similar arrangements with the government.
A tour operator said he was heartbroken to hear about the deal.
Tasmanian Expeditions Marketing Director Brad Atwal said his company had not received any offers of marketing support for any of its range of Tasmanian adventure vacations and the company was not aware of the arrangement. between the Tasmanian Walking Company and the state government.
“Tasmanian Expeditions and Australian Walking Holidays have invested heavily in promoting our Tasmanian product over the past year, to attract hikers to Tasmania and we would have appreciated the assistance of the Tasmanian government,” said Mt Atwal.
“With border restrictions forcing us to cancel the majority of our trips to Tasmania over the past 12 months, it has been a very difficult time and we would certainly have asked for help if it had been available as I am sure others in the industry would have done so. “
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment said the government has entered into a marketing partnership with the company to maximize branding and economic benefits, and that the offerings of the company did not compete with theirs.
The agreement lasts for 10 years, or until 15,000 marchers have passed, whichever comes first.
“Through this partnership approach, the PWS brand is included in all promotional material, events and advertising and this promotion results in visitors spending extra nights on the Tasman Peninsula or other parts of the state. “said the spokesperson.
“No commercial advantage”
The government did not respond to questions on whether similar arrangements were in place for other operators.
Meanwhile, the Tasmanian Walking Company said the deal took several factors into account, including how much it had invested in infrastructure and the uncertainty of the return.
“The performance-based arrangement has provided no business advantage for the Tasmanian Walking Company which has made significant investments in the park where competing operators do not,” the spokesperson said.
Considered an “iconic promenade”, Three Capes is one of Tasmania’s top attractions.
It was developed by state and federal governments at a cost of $ 33 million.
The march – which lasts three to four days on the Tasman Peninsula – ended in 2019 and, before COVID, had an estimated economic impact of $ 19 million per year.
There is currently a proposal to build the next iconic promenade at the Tyndall Ranges in western Tasmania, which has drawn fire from environmental groups.