AFTA View – May 2013

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Jason WestburyThe Federal Budget: thanks for nothing.
No, really – thank you!

By Jay Westbury, chief executive Australian Federation
of Travel Agents


THERE is always a focus on federal politics in May because it is the month when the Federal Budget is handed down.

This year the budget was handed down exactly four months to the day of the next federal election.
Normally when the budget is handed down in an election year we don’t know the election date.

This time we do, and this appears awkward for the current government as there is high degree of expectation that it will not be re-elected.

Of course anything could happen and if the current government is re-elected, we will have a Budget deficit in the order of $18 billion on the back of the current year’s $19 billion deficit. It’s a lot of money which will inevitably have to be found.

For the travel and tourism industry, however, the Budget brought no significant good or bad news.
This is welcomed by an industry which is usually automatically in “fight and defend” mode at Budget time – or at least it has been in the past few years.

On the broader economy we shall have to wait and see how Budget measures impact on consumers’ desire to spend and spend on travel.

There are some concerns about the effect on macro-economic settings such as the value of our currency and interest rates.

That said, an official rate set at 2.75 per cent cannot go much lower. What would be nice would be for the banks to apply a more reasonable interest rate to credit cards as they don’t seem to ever change in any material way.

Meanwhile we see the consumer confidence index taking a dip.

What that all means is that people are likely to pull back on spending and this could have an impact on the travel industry.

The next few months will be very interesting as there are not many days left for the Federal Parliament to “sit” and as such there is not a lot of time left for any real changes to be made by the Parliament.

Clearly we are already in election mode even though officially we aren’t. I suspect once Parliament rises for the winter recess we will see much more political advertising and many more speeches by both the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader.

As readers of travelBulletin know, I love to talk about politics and I know many of you do also. And we are in for plenty of “politics” over the next four months so prepare yourself as things are about to get really entertaining.

• On a final note I know there is a little confusion within the travel industry about the transitional arrangements for licences and the TCF. We are attempting to communicate as much detail as we can about this and I would like to thank everyone for their understanding.

I call this “trapped in transition” time, and as AFTA is not in control of the entire process we can only communicate the facts that are provided to us. We will get more detail out to the industry as soon as it becomes available to us.

Jay Westbury’s AFTA View column appears monthly.