AFTA view – June

Jayson Westbury, chief executive AFTA

Last month the federal government handed down its budget and there was very little for the travel and tourism industry to celebrate apart from the fact that (at least for now) there are no new taxes for the industry.

In one way this could be taken as a good budget, since travel and tourism have often been seen as an easy target for increasing revenue through heavier taxes, and this budget does not do that.

I am sure as you read this you will recall the big fight we had last year with the federal government over the increase to the Passenger Movement Charge (PMC) from 1 July 2017 which will increase to $60 per person. But in real terms what this year’s federal budget did do is decrease the amount of appropriation or funding to Tourism Australia. And they have also failed to provide anything new for the industry. So once again the government will take a small fortune in increased PMC and not award any of it back to any part of the industry to support policies that support the industry.

It’s a vicious circle really and this game is played every year. The industry spends considerable money submitting professional proposals to the pre-budget process, including AFTA and what we get in return is a reduction in funding.

One could suggest that our submissions must not be worth the paper they are written on and some may have that view, but from where I sit it is simply that this government does not really seem interested in the travel and tourism industry.

It is a shame that a government that during the election was all talk about how travel and tourism was a future growth industry has not put its money where its mouth is and increased its support for the various concepts and ideas put forward by the industry for the industry.

As the inbound and outbound numbers continue to increase and the industry appears to, in spite of the lack of government support, continue to grow, I guess those in Canberra feel that they don’t need to worry about us.

One thing that the federal budget did announce is the new Western Sydney Airport (WSA) is going to be built. In of itself this is a very big deal as it has been a topic of conversation for over 40 years. The budget has indicated that it will come at a cost of $5 billion and will be complete by 2026. That’s nine years from now, and a lot can happen in nine years, but clearly not the building of an airport. It just seems inconceivable that it will take that long to get it built. Perhaps the federal government is planning on using convicts to move the rocks.

The wonderful people at Wellcamp (WTB) in Toowoomba managed to get an airport built and operational in 18 months. The mind boggles. But to finish on a much more positive note, at least the WSA project has bipartisan support and as such will happen. Well that is what the politicians have said, so it must be right. Let’s just hope they are this time.

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