Sunday, 5 February 2012

The Port Arthur Historic Site: World Heritage Listing, Out of this Universe Pricing.

On 18 March 1999, the Hon. Robert Hill and the then Premier of Tasmania, Hon. Jim Bacon, jointly opened the brand new shop front to the Port Arthur Historic Site, The Visitor Information Centre. A brand new entrance complete with ticket office, café, and of course, the always important gift shop.

On the 3rd of June 2005 the Port Arthur Historic gained it’s Heritage listing recognised as “A poignant reminder of Australia’s convict past and colonial development.”

Now after visiting many historic sites and places of interest around the world, I understand that most usually attract a fee to help maintain the sites and cover ongoing running costs, however what needs to be considered is the value attached to such premium.

Don’t get me wrong, the Port Arthur site is a very important part of our country’s heritage; however it’s a bit rich to be charging exorbitant prices for us to learn about it.

Having been privileged enough to visit the site prior to the upgrades, I was left somewhat disappointed as to how over commercialised this once family friendly location has become.

There are three tiers of entry. A gold, silver and bronze pass, with the bronze allowing basic entry to the site so you can roam the grounds at your own leisure. There is no basic general admission ticket, so you have no choice but to purchase a bronze pass at the cost of $30 for an adult, $25 for concession, with a family pass relieving you of $75.

In a failed attempt to build value into the ticket price, the bronze pass includes a guided walking tour around the main convict site and a boat ride around the small Mason Cove. The short twenty minute boat ride around Mason Cove heads away from the main convict site, toward the “Isle of the Dead” island cemetery, and then back around to the pier.

The only advantage to the boat ride was that it gives you the opportunity to take a photo of the view the convicts would have had on arrival to Port Arthur. You do have the option to tour around the settlements cemetery on the Island, with the guide on the boat saying it’s a “must do” whilst at Port Arthur to see the real “characters” that made Port Arthur what it is. However this will add another $12 for an adult, $8 for a child, or $34 for a family to the overall price.

The guided tour included in the bronze ticket price seemed the biggest waste of time, as anyone with a level of Grade 5 literacy could read the many information boards surrounding the ruins.

The bang for your buck falls very short with the current pricing structure; hence a basic general admission ticket is needed. A ticket that gives you entry to the site and that allows you to roam around at your own pace. This would be a much better option for those people with families or those who simply want to experience what the Port Arthur Historic Site has to offer on a DIY basis. The guided tours could then be an add on for those wanting that bit extra.

A tip for those attending the Port Arthur Historic site is to take a packed lunch. You could easily be mistaken for being inside an Australian airport when you see the café’s pricing, with the cheapest meat pie setting you back a ridiculous $4.95. If you are attending as a family the lunch time purchases cost could easily blow out adding to the already high cost of the day, leaving you severely out of pocket.

The argument that the horrific massacre at the Port Arthur Historic Site in 1996, which left 35 people dead and physically wounded 19 others, called for increased upgrades, heightened security and therefore the extravagant costs to patrons can be extinguished immediately after visiting there yourself. Security is virtually non-existent and given the visitor capacity of the entrance building, the upgrades have increased the amount of devastation that could be caused if another similar attack occurred.

While it was a fairly enjoyable day out thanks to the good weather, it is just plain sad that the piggy banks of our next generation are being robbed in order to teach them about the past history of our great nation.

For further information about the Port Arthur Historic Site, including pricing, please visit: