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Tourism developed in an ad hoc fashion in Tasmania until the 1890s, when its economic, social and political potential became evident to the community. Among earlier intrepid tourists were Anglo-Indians who experienced Tasmania as a reviving sojourn away from the searing summer heat of Bombay and Calcutta. They appreciated Tasmania’s cool and invigorating climate, ‘sublime’ and ‘picturesque’ scenery and English appeal. Their travel accounts influenced the way tourism propaganda presented Tasmania as ‘Sanatorium of the South’, ‘England of the South’ and ‘Garden of Australia’. By 1870, Tasmania was well known as a ‘health destination’ in India and England and was a popular destination for mainlanders escaping from hotter climates. Wealthier mainlanders were also attracted by social activities such as the Hobart Regatta, prompting novelist Anthony Trollope to comment in 1874 that ‘Hobart Town, they say, is kept alive by visitors who flock to it for the summer months from the other colonies’. In 1869, Victorian Henry Thomas published his Guide for Excursionists from Melbourne to Tasmania, detailing the colony’s attractions. Two years later, J Walch and Sons in Hobart published Walch’s Tasmanian Guide Book: a handbook of information for all parts of the colony, the first Tasmanian publication specifically aimed at tourists.

Tourism intensified in the 1880s when the colony’s rail network was established and travellers enjoyed greater mobility. Growing tourist numbers spawned a number of colourful tourism entrepreneurs. John Tyler co-ordinated local boat, coach and hotel operators to produce ‘package tour’ excursions to attractions as far apart as the Beaconsfield caves in the north and Russell Falls and the Huon Valley in the south. Signor Diego Bernacchi in 1888 optimistically developed his ‘Grand Hotel’ on Maria Island, claiming that soon the island could become the ‘Ceylon of Australia’. In 1893, Thomas Cook and Son opened an office in Hobart, incorporating Tasmania into their ever-expanding global travel network.

That year, Premier Henry Dobson established the Tasmanian Tourist Association, a body subsidised by government and the travel industry to inform and encourage tourist traffic. The Association was a watershed in tourism development, the first such body to exist. Absorbed into the Tasmanian Government Railways, it became the Tasmanian Government Tourist and Information Bureau (1914), aiming to promote Tasmania as a tourist destination. ET Emmett became tourist director. The Tourist Bureau heralded the beginning of significant government involvement in tourism promotion and finally became Tourism Tasmania in 1997, its brief still to promote tourism, with an emphasis on strategic marketing and sustainable development.

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