ACCI view Feb 2017

STEVE Whan, manager, Australian Chamber National – Tourism

A great future awaits…

At a time of sluggish growth across the Australian economy, tourism remains a hero sector, with its strong growth delivering jobs and export earnings.

Amid favourable terms of trade and continued promotion, the visitor economy grew 7.4 per cent in 2015-16, making a $53 billion contribution to Australia’s economy. And with the right policy settings there will be plenty of growth ahead.

Picture what the Australian tourism sector could look like in 2024-25. By then we can expect to welcome 12.3 million visitors (up from 8.3 million this year, and more than double the 5.5 million who arrived in 2006-07). These inbound tourists could between them spend $67.8 billion (in today’s dollars), making tourism close to Australia’s single biggest export earner. Factor in domestic tourist spending, and the visitor economy could be one of the biggest sources of Australian jobs in the next decade.

This growth in visitors will also provide a major boost to government coffers, beyond the $8 billion in tax already contributed by the sector. These inbound tourists will pay the ticket tax (as the recently increased Passenger Movement Charge ought to be known), as well as paying GST on their spending.

But there are some things that can get in the way of us achieving this growth. For some, like a rising Australian dollar making our country a more costly destination, there is little we can do. For others, we need policy-makers to take action soon.

That’s why Australian Chamber — Tourism, the peak body for tourism businesses, urges the Federal Government to recognise the importance of tourism to Australia’s economic and social wellbeing when it is preparing the Federal Budget to be delivered in May.

There are some practical and cost-effective policy measures we are asking the Government to put in place:

n An Industry Growth Centre dedicated to tourism. Growth Centres, which are government-backed organisations led by industry experts, are tasked with proposing reforms to red tape, improving engagement between research and industry, strengthening connections with international markets and enhancing management and workforce skills.

n A clear commitment to internationally competitive visa fees.

n A bigger investment in tourism product development and infrastructure, given the substantial increase in tax being contributed by the sector.

n Coordinated action to overcome the widening staff and skills shortage.

The Government is not shy about claiming justified credit for tourism’s success. But it remains to be seen if the Government will accept the challenge of putting in place policies that boost our competitiveness and help the industry to resist a potential decline in the terms of trade.