EYES OF A STRANGER

AAUSTRALIA­NS HAVE NOM­I­NATED OUR TOP TOURIST AT­TRAC­TIONS - BUT HOW MANY CAN FOR­EIGN VIS­I­TORS SEE IN JUST SIX DAYS?

The Advertiser - SA Weekend - - ESCAPE - WOR DS C A ROLY N E JA S I NS K I

THERE’S

noth­ing like Aus­tralia . . . just ask the lo­cals. That’s what Tourism Aus­tralia did for its new­est mar­ket­ing cam­paign, and 29,000 lo­cals sent in what they thought are our best tourist at­trac­tions. The top eight, de­cided by a nation-wide com­pe­ti­tion, are Uluru in the North­ern Ter­ri­tory (No.1), our own Kan­ga­roo Is­land, Cathe­dral Gorge in Western Aus­tralia, Syd­ney Har­bour Bridge, Mel­bourne’s street scenes, the Great Bar­rier Reef and Tas­ma­nia’s Cra­dle Moun­tain.

But how does that list sit in the over­seas mar­ket? Do Asian tourists, for ex­am­ple, want to see what Aussies hold dear? Ap­par­ently so. Ac­cord­ing to Tourism Aus­tralia, Uluru and the Great Bar­rier Reef sit right up there with Syd­ney Har­bour, our wildlife and wilder­ness, as Asian favourites.

China is Aus­tralia’s fourth largest in­bound tourist mar­ket and the sec­ond largest in terms of eco­nomic value (the UK still tops the list). Chi­nese tourists list shop­ping as their favoured ac­tiv­ity, fol­lowed by sight­see­ing, win­ing and din­ing, vis­it­ing our beaches, then na­tional parks. For the Ja­panese, food and wine come first, then shop­ping, sight­see­ing, the beach, na­tional parks and wildlife.

So how well do we cater for the Asian mar­ket? There’s re­ally only one way to find out – and that is to travel “Asian style”.

I vol­un­teered to take a tour which is typ­i­cal of those that many Asian vis­i­tors book. It’s a tough job (and I’m not kid­ding) but some­one had to do it. Asian vis­i­tors gen­er­ally have only a short time in which to fit in all these ac­tiv­i­ties, so they run them­selves ragged, cram­ming in a seem­ingly im­pos­si­ble list of “must sees”. In just six days we travel from Tas­ma­nia to Port Dou­glas, tack­ling a manic-paced itin­er­ary that would have most Aussies chok­ing on their bar­be­cued prawns.

DAY ONE ASIA TO TAS­MA­NIA

The jour­ney starts with a long haul from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur to Mel­bourne. A 10.30pm start (the night be­fore), an eight-hour flight and a con­nect­ing flight to Launce­s­ton and you might ex­pect a rest. Not likely. There’s a three-hour drive to Cra­dle Moun­tain ahead. Just out­side of Launce­s­ton is our first (of many) stops, at The Gourmet Sauce Co. In 40 min­utes we have tasted, toured the prop­erty, scoffed lunch and shopped. I could have spent hours watch­ing sun­light glint through crab ap­ple trees, but the group is head­ing for the mini­van. Rolling green hills and quaint towns have cam­eras snap­ping. The wilder­ness has wo­ven its magic – just like the statis­tics pre­dicted.

Cra­dle Moun­tain Lodge wel­comes us at the end of an al­ready long day. We’d love to curl up in our toasty log cabins but we have a date with the Tas­ma­nian devil. We pat (they’re ac­tu­ally quite cute), we learn (the mang­ier a devil’s bot­tom, the hot­ter this car­niv­o­rous mar­su­pial is – to fe­male devils), and we watch them eat (not a pretty sight).

Our own din­ner sets the trend for the next six nights. It’s easy to over­look the im­por­tance of meal times on some tours – but not if you’re cater­ing for Asian vis­i­tors – they have high ex­pec­ta­tions. The Lodge’s High­land Res­tau­rant doesn’t dis­ap­point.

DAY 2 CRA­DLE MOUN­TAIN

With a view of lake, lodge, moun­tains and mist, it’s hard to leave my room. The Aussie thing to do would be to spend days here re­lax­ing, read­ing (there is no TV) and ex­plor­ing. The Asian thing, how­ever, is to ad­mire the view, take a photo and move on. Wom­bats and kan­ga­roos wan­der around the lodge . . . tick wildlife off the wish-list.

On the agenda to­day is a hike around Dove Lake, mas­sage, shop­ping, wine tast­ing and din­ner. We are blessed with clear skies and a full (and rare) view of Cra­dle Moun­tain. The 6.6km path is easy go­ing but Young Lim, a jour­nal­ist from Singapore, looks concerned. Now that we have seen the lake, he’s not sure we need to walk “all the way around it”. Here’s where we dif­fer . . . while Aussies love to walk on the wild side, Asians pre­fer to wake with the wild side in view but not nec­es­sar­ily in their face. Ten min­utes in and we reach a boat shed. The scene looks fa­mil­iar – it was a fi­nal­ist in the Tourism Aus­tralia cam­paign. “This is enough now,” Young whis­pers. “Sin­ga­pore­ans would have walked here, taken a photo and then gone.”

DAY 3 ONE END OF AUS­TRALIA TO THE OTHER

To­day is a blur of cars and planes. The drive back to Launce­s­ton takes much longer af­ter we add stops at

Ash­grove Cheese Fac­tory, Rasp­berry Farm and colour­ful Sh­effield, a town which boasts an an­nual Mu­ral Fes­ti­val. We fly to Syd­ney, then Cairns, where a li­mou­sine delivers us to Port Dou­glas just in time to check in to the Mer­cure Port Dou­glas Tree­tops Re­sort and Spa and hit the sack.

DAY 4 GREAT BAR­RIER REEF

To­day we get to meet Marvin, the gi­ant Maori wrasse on the Great Bar­rier Reef. Aus­tralia has al­ready been in­tro­duced to Marvin – he was an­other fi­nal­ist in the “There’s noth­ing like” cam­paign. Our Ca­lypso cruise shows why . . . the weather is mild, the wa­ter clear and the un­der­wa­ter scenes of neon fish and co­ral gar­dens un­for­get­table. And then there is Marvin with his big blub­bery lips, slid­ing in close for a pat and pic­ture.

“This is a per­fect day,” Young says. It ap­pears that while Asians are frill seekers at heart, they also love the thrill of dis­cov­er­ing new “soft” ad­ven­tures. Pool­side din­ner tonight is a salute to all things Aus­tralian – in­clud­ing cit­rus croc and flam­beed kan­ga­roo.

DAY 5 PORT DOU­GLAS TO BRIS­BANE

The An­zac Park mar­kets of­fer a taste of the ca­sual life­style in trop­i­cal Port Dou­glas. It’s a laid-back, sprawl­ing town with re­sort af­ter re­sort. An­other few days and I might start to re­lax. But we’re off again, to Cairns then Bris­bane. A City Cat ferry ride (Bris­bane’s an­swer to buses) gives a pass­ing glimpse of the lo­cals mak­ing the most of water­front leisure spots on our way to Pow­er­house, home to live mu­sic, com­edy and ex­hi­bi­tions, and the Bris­bane Eye for a birds-eye view of the city. The Sof­i­tel Bris­bane Cen­tral is home for the night. Only one lux­u­ri­ous sleep here is just cruel.

DAY 6 BRIS­BANE TO GOLD COAST

To­day is huge. A shot of cul­ture at the Gallery of Mod­ern Art, then a heli­copter ride to Sir­romet, Queens­land’s biggest win­ery. Ac­cord­ing to Young, this is the kind of soft ad­ven­ture that Asians love. It’s ex­cit­ing and serves a pur­pose – get­ting us to the next at­trac­tion. A tour of the win­ery makes me wish for a bot­tle and time to en­joy the view – but time is what we’re short of. We’re off to Dream­world to fit into a few hours what most Aussies do in a whole day. A few of us tackle the Tower of Ter­ror and the Gi­ant Drop. Ev­ery­one lines up to cud­dle a koala. But pat­ting a tiger has to be the ul­ti­mate thrill. Mo­han is a 200kg mass of mus­cle who is happy slurp­ing a milk ice-cube while we care­fully crouch next to him. As with all good tours, this one has saved the best till last. Our fi­nal night is at the Sof­i­tel Gold Coast. On the agenda? Just din­ner . . . a long, re­laxed din­ner pre­pared by the On3 res­tau­rant staff. Tonight we can catch our breath. Af­ter six days of “Asian style” tour­ing, I need a hol­i­day to re­cover. I ad­mire the stamina of my trav­el­ling com­pan­ions. They are go­ing home a lit­tle ex­hausted but full of brag­ging rights and happy to have ticked off most things on their wish­lists. They will spread the word about Aus­tralia, and they will re­turn. It just goes to show, there’s noth­ing like Aus­tralia . . . just ask the Asians.

The boat shed at Dove Lake, Cra­dle Moun­tain. The Gallery of Mod­ern Art in Bris­bane.

Snorkellin­g on the Great Bar­rier Reef.

Marvin, the gi­ant Maori wrasse on the Great Bar­rier Reef.

Port Dou­glas

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