AFTA view: September 2017

Jayson Westbury, chief executive AFTA

I read with interested the latest tourism data reports which show that the Australian Tourism industry is generating some $62.6 billion from Australians holidaying at home for the year to June 2017. In addition, the International Visitor Survey has reported some $40.6 billion over the same period from inbound tourism spend.

It is important to note that while the Federal Government spruiks these two numbers as good news and good for the country — which they both are — it is disappointing to hear nothing being said about the strength of the outbound travel industry. This is now tracking at an estimated value of $40 billion making the real total number for travel and tourism in, out and around Australia at $143.2 billion.

It is as if the travel industry is irrelevant to the conversation but of course for us within the industry it is very relevant. Even more so is the role of travel agents in all of these numbers.

Most of the inbound tourism to Australia is generated via the travel agent channel. Sure, those travel agents are in other countries and they are selling Australia, but a great deal of the domestic tourism industry is also sold by travel agents. When the Federal Government talks about the industry it would be nice to acknowledge the importance of the travel sector in the conversation.

I always roll my eyes when I see politicians making grand statements about the tourism industry and the numbers. It is as if they have done something personally to get the results. Yet from a domestic tourism point of view, the Federal Government has absolutely nothing to do with it.

It is undeniable that Tourism Australia does a fantastic job promoting Australia as a destination internationally. In fact, they are world class, despite the fact the Federal Government can’t wait to nickel and dime the TA budget every year. Despite that, Australia remains a very attractive destination and the inbound industry is currently doing very well as a result of that.

Curiously, so too is the Australian outbound travel market. In fact, the 6.9% increase in the international departures by Australians is holding well and despite the strong domestic spending being up it is not at the expense of the outbound market.

In fact, both are up meaning that Australians are spending more money on holidays than they have in previous years. Continued strong consumer confidence is the key driver to Australians making a decision to take a holiday be it within the country or overseas.

Travel and Tourism go together. They must exist to support each other and I am consistently disappointed with governments who try to play one off against the other.

Two-way tourism movement is critical to the success of any industry and that is why AFTA continues to make the point that bilateral tourism policies with our best and largest opportunity markets is key to the success of both the travel and tourism industry.