Margy Osmond, CEO, Tourism & Transport Forum Australia
Taking growth for granted
As China stands poised to overtake New Zealand for the first time as Australia’s biggest source of international visitors, and other Asian markets continue to skyrocket, the rise and rise of Asian tourists to our shores is shaping up to be one of Australian tourism’s great success stories.
However, we cannot continue to take this growth for granted. Without a commitment from governments at all levels to provide long-term support and investment in the tourism sector, we run the risk of not capitalising on the seemingly limitless growth of the Asian visitor market.
The recent 2017-18 Federal Budget was a disappointing departure from a Government that until now had provided an encouraging commitment to grow the visitor economy through measures such as providing Tourism Australia with the funding it needs to compete with other nations that are increasingly ramping up their investment in destination marketing, in a bid to win a greater slice of the booming Asian visitor market.
Next year, Tourism Australia will have $8.5 million less than this year to spend on promoting Australia to the world. This decision is a serious blow to the sector and will inevitably have a negative impact on growth in international visitor arrivals in the years ahead.
These cuts also have the very real potential to adversely affect the almost one million Australians with a job that is linked to tourism — jobs that are dependent on the hundreds of thousands of visitors that come to our shores off the back of Tourism Australia’s destination marketing campaigns.
We simply cannot grow the visitor economy to its full potential in the face of extraordinary competition from other markets when the budget of our primary marketing vehicle is reduced.
In another disappointing blow to the sector, the Government also announced in the Budget that visa application charges will now be indexed in line with the CPI, raising an expected $410 million over the four years of the forward estimates.
This visa hike is an extremely short-sighted move that has resulted in Australia not only becoming one of the most expensive countries in the world to obtain a visa for, but will also make the task of competing against the multitude of other destinations for the international tourist dollar a whole lot harder.
Overall, this Budget was a disappointment to the visitor economy. While there was welcome spending on roads, rail and airports, which will provide a boost for domestic tourism, TTF remains concerned that the lacklustre approach to funding for Tourism Australia and the increase in visa fees will reduce the potential of the sector to boost Australia’s growth and create jobs.