Most Aussies want a tourism tax on arrivals

The results of a recent InsureandGo survey may have revealed an inconvenient truth about Australia's tourism recovery. ADAM BISHOP explains.

IN CONTRAST to recent comments made by Tourism Australia chief Phillipa Harrison, a survey released this week suggests most Australians are concerned about the impact tourists are having on the country’s natural environment.

So strong is the angst among Aussies that 60% of the 1,000 citizens surveyed said they were in favour of introducing a tourism tax to combat the environmental toll visitors are inflicting on the country.

A study conducted by InsureandGo found NSW residents to be the most protective of their environment, with 63% wanting a levy imposed on tourists, followed by South Australia (61%), Victoria (59%), Qld (57%) and Western Australia (51%).

The findings are disparate to statements made by Harrison at the Destination Australia event held in Sydney last month, where the well-respected tourism leader suggested it was unlikely a country like Australia would find itself in a situation where its landmarks and natural environment would become prone to overtourism.

However, she did qualify her comments by conceding the concept of overtourism was still an area that must form part of Tourism Australia’s mission to grow annual arrival numbers in a sustainable way.

While pointing to obvious environmental costs experienced in countries like Croatia, Harrison said Australia was not in the same category, but still needed to focus on the preservation of sights of cultural and natural significance.

Australia’s sparseness and low population density have long been viewed as a key advantage when it comes to dispersing visitors, however a growing global trend of implementing tourism taxes is clearly on the minds of many Australians.

Any move to enforce an extra impost on international arrivals would be a significant disincentive Australia could well do without as it continues to recover from the pandemic.

The country’s geographic isolation has meant that despite the best efforts of government and our peak tourism marketing body, tourists have not flooded back in the numbers many might have hoped for when border restrictions were lifted in 2021.

The high price of airfares, the frantic marketing offensives from competitor markets, and the slow return of historically major source countries like China and Japan are just some of the factors conspiring to hamper Australia’s tourism sector.

Europe has been leading the way in either raising or implementing new tourism levies, with high-profile examples this year being Barcelona, Venice and Iceland, while closer to home Bali has also added a $15 charge for arrivals to fund natural environment preservation.

While the prospect of a tourism tax is likely to be the last thing Australian tourism stakeholders want, the appetite is there with Aussie travellers wanting to visit overseas destinations.

The same InsureandGo report indicated most Australian travellers don’t have an issue paying their way overeseas if it means helping to keep countries and cultures healthy and vibrant.

The validity of tourism taxes more broadly showed younger Australians aged between 18 and 30 are the most eco-conscious, with 73%
indicating their support for paying tourism taxes on trips.

Support for tourism levies dropped slightly for Australians aged between 31 and 50 (62%), and even more when it came to older Aussies (59%), while just over 10% of all Aussies suggested they were willing to pay even more than what most tourist taxes are currently imposing.

On the other side of the ledger, close to 40% said they were against any added levies on holidays.

Tourism Australia, The Australian Tourism Export Council and the Tourism and Transport Forum were all contacted for their take on the survey’s results, but did not get back to travelBulletin by the time of publishing.


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