TTF view April edition
Margy Osmond, CEO, Tourism & Transport Forum Australia
As Treasurer Scott Morrison prepares to put the final touches on next month’s Federal Budget, the Tourism & Transport Forum (TTF) will be urging the government to recognise the importance of tourism and transport investment across Australia.
The phenomenal growth of Australia’s visitor economy over the past few years has led many to proclaim we are currently in the midst of a new golden age of Australian tourism. This growth looks set to continue for some time yet, with increased numbers of international visitors predicted to flock to our shores and domestic travel more popular than ever. However, despite the increasing importance of the visitor economy to the budget bottom line, there are concerns from many in the sector that tourism is still treated as a cash cow.
The reality is that despite the record spending level, spending growth has cooled to its slowest pace since 2013. This suggests that while spending may have hit record highs, we can’t afford to be complacent and need to continue to have strong policies in place to drive the sector’s growth.
Against the backdrop of an economy in transition, it is absolutely critical that the Federal Government uses its 2018-19 Budget to support the sectors of the economy that can produce growth and drive prosperity; to this end, investing in tourism and transport should be a no-brainer.
Last year, we were extremely disappointed to see the government jeopardise the growth of Australia’s visitor economy by significantly reducing funding for Tourism Australia over the forward estimates.
The government must seize this opportunity to recognise the importance of tourism marketing to the visitor economy, as we saw with the hugely successful recent Crocodile Dundee marketing campaign during the US Super Bowl, which directly translated into increased US interest in visiting Australia.
Through our 2018-19 Budget submission we are also calling on the Government to reform the skilled visa system. Recent changes to the skilled visa system have had a negative impact on the Australian tourism sector and the industry is crying out for changes to be made to streamline the system and make it more attractive to highly skilled workers.
It is absolutely vital that the government also uses its Budget to finally allow the private sector to operate the Tourist Refund Scheme (TRS). It is abundantly clear that the scheme is not being sufficiently resourced or developed to meet the demands of growing visitor numbers, particularly from China, Australia’s highest-spending visitor group, for whom shopping is an integral part of the travel experience. As a budget saving and efficiency measure, we believe that the TRS should be automated and operated by the private sector at Australia’s international airports. This will ensure that traveller expectations are met as well as reduce congestion in refund queues at airports.
With the countdown well and truly on to the 2018-19 Budget, the sector is hoping the government will not get cold feet and instead push forward with these job creating and economy boosting opportunities. The measures we propose are strategic investments in the future prosperity of our nation and we are urging the government to think carefully about the possibilities that lie within our grasp and back our tourism and transport sectors.