TTF View – Nov/Dec 2013
Now is the time to push tourism
onto new government’s agenda
By Ken Morrison, chief executive,
Tourism & Transport Forum
THERE is no doubt that tourism is a powerful economic development strategy for the nation. With a new government recently installed in Canberra, now is the time to push tourism onto the political agenda.
At the Australian Tourism Directions Conference, Minister for Trade Andrew Robb, whose portfolio includes responsibility for tourism, stated that tourism is one of Australia’s great strengths. He also said that the Abbott government is committed to the Tourism 2020 target of doubling overnight visitor expenditure to between $115 billion and $140 billion by the end of the decade. These are welcome statements.
Tourism 2020 was published in December 2011, a framework born out of the National Long-Term Tourism Strategy. Tourism 2020 lays out targets to grow the tourism industry and identifies strategic priorities to facilitate that growth.
The aim of doubling overnight tourism expenditure by 2020 was endorsed by industry and state governments formulated their own targets in line with the Tourism 2020 national objectives.
Two years on, it’s time for a pro-gress update. The latest State of the Industry report delivered a positive assessment of how the tourism industry is tracking as we work towards the Tourism 2020 goals.
It shows overnight tourism expenditure rising to almost $80 billion in the year to the end of June 2013, which puts us on track to reach overnight tourism expenditure of around $115 billion a year by the end of the decade. While this looks good and the growth is welcome, it’s at the lower end of the Tourism Industry Potential range proposed during the development of Tourism 2020.
So what can be done to move the dial and make sure Australia can reach the upper end of the target, adding $25 billion in annual tourism expenditure? The industry needs government action.
• Firstly, Tourism Australia’s budget must be increased. TA is already doing great work but in order to increase visitor numbers and spend it needs a budget that reflects the enormous task before it.
• Secondly, extending visitor visas to 36 months would facilitate repeat visitation and reduce the administrative burden. This, coupled with a simpler visa process for our Asian neighbours, would make Australia even more enticing for visitors.
• Thirdly, we must increase our aviation access. While it’s pleasing that a secondary airport for Sydney is now on the agenda, it will be a number of years before it comes on line. In the interim, Sydney airport’s operating conditions must be modernised to allow it to cater for growing demand and we must resist the proposal to tie up Brisbane airport in a new curfew.
• Fourthly, tourism taxes must be included in the government’s comprehensive tax review to ensure Australia can remain competitive. Australia’s excessive Passenger Movement Charge is dampening demand for travel particularly from our popular short-haul markets like New Zealand.
• Finally, industry is waiting for the government to announce its intention to negotiate working holiday maker agreements with China, India and the Philippines and ease the burden of labour supply. With an estimated 36,000 vacancies across the sector, it is critical we expand our workforce base.
Australia must adjust its policy settings if it’s to take full advantage of the Asian travelling people boom. This is a $25 billion opportunity for the country, so let’s grab it with both hands.
TTF View appears quarterly.