QUEUES have grown so long at the Port Arthur Historic Site that visitors are bumping into each other.
Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority chair Professor Sharon Sullivan told a government business enterprise hearing today that construction of a new visitor centre designed to cater for the increased numbers would start in late January 2017 and take about 11 months to complete.
She said while there was “still a lot of life in the old visitor centre”, it was feeling the pressure. “You do not want to be there at one o’clock on a wet Sunday afternoon,’’ Prof Sullivan said.Designed to cope with operational needs for the next 15 years, the new centre will be built on the same site but its footprint will be about 30 per cent larger.
State Growth Minister Matthew Groom told the hearing Port Arthur was “the gold standard of heritage tourism” in Australia, taking out numerous awards — including the best historical site in Australia this year. The Government and PAHSMA were very aware of the challenges ahead for the “extremely successful model”, he said.
Visitor numbers had grown by 13.2 per cent to 344,180 in 2015-16 and cruise ships had doubled, with an expected 22 to dock at the site this season, Prof Sullivan said. “With twice the number of cruise ships, we have to be careful not to destroy the experience,” she said.
Asian tourists are shown the site by a Chinese-speaking guide inside the recently refurbished penitentiary. PAHSMA CEO Stephen Large said a new group of patrons was visiting the site because of the Three Capes Track experience. “These are nature tourists not normally attracted to cultural sites,’’ he said.
At least 40 per cent of Three Capes visitors were spending one night on the Tasman Peninsula, he said. Mr Large said the shortage of hotel rooms in Hobart was having also an impact on Port Arthur accommodation, but several hotel developments were in the wings — including Federal Group’s five-star hotel, due to open in 2018 with 20 rooms.
He said PAHSMA was working with Tasman Council to identify a developer to build another 40 to 50 room hotel. Three to four sites had been identified for the development and the new owner of the Port Arthur Villas intended to build cabins, he said. “With the new hotel, Federal and the cabins — that’s enough rooms,” Mr Large said.
Tony Park is reporting that the development is all on track and ready to open on Dec 21st 2017.