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ABS tourism survey spared the axe – but for how long?

July 9, 2014 Corporate, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59The bizarre recent decision by Australia’s national statistical agency to stop collecting tourism accommodation statistics has been reversed, but many in the tourism industry are wondering how long the reprieve will last.

The odd decision by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has perplexed and worried Australia’s hotel and lodging industry, which has described its effects as like “driving a car without a fuel gauge”. Funding restraints were cited by the ABS, but questions are being asked about ABS priorities.

A reversal of the decision was announced by Friends of Tourism MP Dan Tehan, who said the government would continue funding the Survey of Tourist Accommodation for another year.

Tourism Accommodation Australia (TAA) welcomed the decision but has called for the survey to be allocated long-term funding.

The move to scrap the survey due to funding constraints drew criticism from TAA and other sectors of the industry, because funding for hotel and other tourism infrastructure development relied heavily on these independent, reliable statistics to justify the investments.

Minister for Trade and Tourism, Andrew Robb, has committed that for 2014-15, Austrade would fund the Survey, which would continue to be carried out by the ABS.

TAA managing director, Rodger Powell, said that the move highlighted Robb’s understanding and appreciation of the value of the accommodation sector and its contribution to economic growth and the creation of new jobs.

“Minister Robb is overseas selling investment in Australia and knows just how important this information can be,” Powell said.

“TAA lobbied extensively for the retention of these statistics because Australia is about to undergo its most significant hotel development programme in two decades, and it is essential that investors and other analysts have the most precise, comprehensive and reliable figures possible.

“The minister and his team are to be congratulated for their rapid intervention, but we are concerned that the extension is currently just for one year, with Austrade charged to work with industry to find a sustainable funding model.

“We understand that the Government needs to reduce spending, but making cuts that negatively impact investment makes no economic sense. The primary users of the data are not the 8000 properties who supply it, but the investors, analysts, developers, and other players in the broader tourism segment. The production of such comprehensive data is not something that the accommodation industry could take on for itself due to the unique structure of the hospitality and tourism sector.

“We would call on the treasury and the rest of the government to support long-term funding of the statistics, because the industry has been identified as one of the five national growth industries and provides outstanding opportunities to grow employment across the country, in both cities and regional areas.”

Tourism Accommodation Australia (TAA) represents the interests of the 24 Australian Accommodation Chains and some 1000 individual members in the Hotel, Serviced Apartment, Integrated Resort, Motel and Vacation Ownership sectors. Servicing owners, operators, managers, franchises and other industry stakeholders, TAA is a division of the Australian Hotels Association, a federally registered organisation of employers representing hotels since 1836.

The ABS has carried out its accommodation data role for decades and its statistics are widely used as a vital tool in measuring industry performance on a regular basis.

The Accommodation Association of Australia (AAA) has also expressed fears that the ABS decision would hit tourism investment in Australia. The AAA, very reasonably, urged the ABS to reconsider – but received no reply.

“The ABS statistics are a vital tool for operators, investors and potential investors in Australia’s accommodation industry. If you can’t measure industry performance on a regular basis, then our industry can’t manage it,” AAA chief executive Richard Munro commented at the time.

“To not have a comprehensive set of accurate performance data for such a large component of the tourism industry is akin to driving a car without a fuel gauge.”

The AAA has also criticised the ABS over a lack of consultation about the decision.

“Last year we wrote to the ABS about the future of tourism accommodation statistics and we never received a reply,” Munro said.

“Seemingly, the ABS has difficulty understanding the value of tourism to the economy and that it has been identified by Deloitte as one of five super-growth industries for then Australian economy.”

Written by : Peter Needham

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