By Dean Long, Chief Executive Officer, Australian Federation of Travel Agents
As you may have seen, last week AFTA brought together members and other travel stakeholders for a meeting with the Foreign Affairs Minister in Sydney and the Trade and Tourism Minister in Melbourne.
Eighteen leaders representing a cross-section of the industry had the opportunity to talk to Hon. Penny Wong, Foreign Minister, in an event graciously hosted by Sabre at their head office.
The Minister spoke on global issues affecting Australia, whilst also taking questions on issues particular to our industry. They included Australia’s complex relationship with China and its effects on future increases in air capacity, our role in the promotion of sustainability and the ethics of promoting tours to countries whose leaderships have very different outlooks to our own.
At the same time in Melbourne Andy Buerckner of Platinum Travel Corporation represented AFTA with the Trade and Tourism Minister, Senator Don Farrell. Andy, told the Minister of the need for ongoing support in the skills space, an area which is perhaps the biggest barrier we face in the ongoing recovery process.
These two engagements are important in demonstrating travel’s distinction from the tourism portfolio, which is primarily focused on the inbound tourism segment. Everyone is acutely aware that we must continue to inform and influence our senior members of Parliament about the importance of international travel by Australians and the role agents, tour operators and wholesalers play in this process.
AFTA is also partnering with the CLIA, the Tourism and Transport Forum and the Australian Airports Association to highlight the impact that an increase to the Passenger Movement Charge would have on travel. Australians are already squeezed by cost-of-living pressures, and together our position is that an increase in this charge is counterproductive to the recovery of our sector. The critical importance of speaking with one voice to the government about the importance of travel and the Australian businesses that support it cannot be overstated.
This week we have a delegation of ATAS businesses in Canberra for the budget announcement and reply by the opposition. Our role, as ever, is to ensure that politicians from all sides and bureaucrats are aware of issues affecting the travel industry. This is work that matters for all our members and for travel.