ATEC View – Advocating for policy reform that align with new trends

With distance, cost and the complications of global travel changing our visitor profile, the industry can and must look at diversifying our markets...

Peter Shelley, Managing Director, ATEC

By Peter Shelley, Managing Director, Australian Tourism Export Council

A FEW years back when Australian visitor numbers hit the giddy heights of over 9m a year, our tourism industry was clearly focused on a few key markets who delivered much of our export value. These included China which took the lead with around 1.4m visitors a year, the UK and US had been consistently strong for many decades, along with Japan and Singapore.

With distance, cost and the complications of global travel changing our visitor profile, the industry can and must look at diversifying our markets. It’s a chance to not only double down on those markets which have traditionally delivered us high yields, but to also ready the industry for the travellers of the future. 

To this end we have seen a strategic review from Austrade on diversifying markets for the betterment of the tourism economy and ATEC’s submission to that review revealed that overwhelmingly our members believe diversification is either ‘very important’ or ‘important’ to their business. Further, our research shows the industry is ready to start expanding its foothold into South-East Asia, with businesses previously focused on China alone now looking for regional opportunities outside of this market.

This being the case, ATEC has been advocating for policy reform that aligns with these new trends. One important reform, ATEC believes, should be to the parameters around the Emerging Market Development Grant (EMDG) program. As we move into diversifying trade markets our tourism businesses need to have access to programs that support them to build their trade relationships in new markets. While the EMDG program has been a valuable and important tool for our industry for many years, the majority of our tourism export businesses have long since exhausted their 8 opportunities to access EMDG support. We argue that in this new tourism landscape, where we are forging our way into new markets, we must support tourism exporters to build back international business and look to explore fresh opportunities and in doing so, off-set the commercial risk by providing access to EMDG for businesses establishing new export markets.

In ATEC’s recent submission to the Government we outlined numerous reforms to EMDG which would improve its usability and functionality and highlighted the absolute priority issue of revising these caps. It seems counter-productive that while we are being urged to explore a trade diversification strategy, an operator that who has exhausted their eight years of EMDG is not eligible for a grant. 

We are also greatly concerned by the forward appropriations for EMDG in 25/26 and 26/27 see a significant reduction of close to $50m funding which again seems counter-productive for a trade diversification strategy.

The fundamental question remains, if the Government is truly committed to encouraging and supporting tourism exporters to expand into new markets, to grow export revenue, to grow jobs and to reduce the growing trade deficit between tourism imports and exports, then why is the Government choosing to reduce support for tourism exporters willing to take on significant commercial risk when entering into new off-shore markets?

Most certainly there are great opportunities ahead and our industry is poised to actively engage with new markets, what we need from our Government is clear and visionary support.

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