Tasmania to Lead the Nation in 'Barrier-Free Tourism'

Date posted: 
22 June 2004

A new tourism venture that will make Tasmania a national and international leader in catering for people with physical disabilities and mobility restrictions was launched in Launceston on May 7th.

The Devils Playground will create a 'barrier free' touring circuit of Tasmania providing self-catered accommodation and facilities for a range of visitors, but especially those with a physical disability or mobility restriction.

The brain-child of former NSW tourism developers, Kerry and Jane Winberg, The Devils Playground comprises new accommodation facilities at strategic locations around the State based on Tourism Tasmania's touring routes.

These facilities are in Launceston, Boat Harbour, Queenstown, Westerway (near Mt. Field National Park), Oatlands and Branxholm.

Development of two other already purchased sites will further enhance The Devils Playground touring experience. Land purchased from the West Coast Council at Tullah, will be developed into a fully accessible lake-side lodge and motor home/caravan park complex while a 51ha bushland site near Nabowla, in the State's north east, will be developed into an eco-tourism chalet park, again with a focus on being barrier free.

"The circuit enables guests, and particularly those with access and mobility problems, to tour the entire State with complete confidence that their accommodation needs are going to be fully met wherever they want to travel". Mr Winberg said.

"The 'barrier free' concept is a first for Tasmania and possibly set an international precedent which would open up a huge new tourism market for the State". he said.

"We have been planning this project for several years now and came to Tasmania almost 12 months ago to the day to begin. We're very excited that it's all now starting to come to fruition".

"We researched extensively with the help of some of the country's recognised experts in this field and can say with confidence that such a comprehensive touring holiday opportunity for people with access or mobility challenges simply does not exist anywhere else in the country".

"There is a massive group of people whose recreational and holiday needs have, until now, been almost totally ignored".

"Add the two family members and/or support worker that statistics show typically travel with these people and you begin to see just how big this market really is".

While catering for a wide range of interstate visitors, The Devils Playground will also cater for many Tasmanians, including:

* People with a physical disability who could only travel with the full-time help of a support worker;
* Families whose travel options were limited by a family member with a physical disability;
* Aged people with mobility problems, and;
* Rural families with family members with a disability who found it difficult to visit Launceston on business or for overnight excursions.

A rare opportunity to acquire a former aged care home in the Launceston suburb of Prospect created the foundation for The Devils Playground.

The now 46-room, 120 guest facility was fully refurbished to prepare it for a new role as the central hub for the company's state-wide tourism activities.

"To build a similar facility from scratch would be virtually impossible today, you simply couldn't get a return on your investment, so we grabbed the opportunity with both hands when we saw it," Mr Winberg said.

"The remainder of our facilities - with the notable exception of the Tullah and Nabowla properties - are former homes converted to provide similar standard accommodation and modified to allow complete access for our guests with access and mobility challenges".

"Every property will provide a 'five-star backpacker' level of accommodation and, critically, will allow all our guests to mix in all the areas of the motel - providing the type of interaction people with disability much prefer after being more used to isolation and 'special' treatment."

Mr Winberg said the well-recognised features that already made Tasmania one of Australia's most popular holiday destinations were precisely the features that would give the State a unique edge in attracting people with access or mobility problems.

"The State's compact size, variety of scenery and attractions, excellent roads and the increased interstate access offered by the 'three Spirits' will yet again prove to be a winning combination for this market," he said.

'We believe that, properly developed, this new market will have significant impact throughout the industry in this State and we're hoping to connect with other operators who share our vision for developing it". he said.

More Information: Kerry Winberg 03 6343 3119, email: [email protected] or visit our website at: www.the devilsplayground.com.au