International visitation to Australia and visitor spending each soared to new heights during the financial year ending 30 June 2016, latest figures reveal – but tourism leaders are adamant that there is more the government must do.
The government should set in place reforms that put the visitor economy, and its success, at front and centre of the economic agenda.
According to the Tourism & Transport Forum Australia (TTF), the Government must now:
- Kill the backpacker tax once and for all.
- Slash the fees and charges which add to the cost of travelling to Australia.
- Support industry securing its workforce for the future.
- Build the visitor infrastructure and public transport that improves the experience of visiting Australian cities and regions.
- Recognise the importance of improving the visitor experience at Australia’s international gateways.
Latest figures released by Tourist Research Australia, show that visitors to Australia spent a record AUD 38.1 billion in the year ending June 2016 – 14% or AUD 4.7 billion more than the previous year – though the TTF says Australia shouldn’t be content with that amount.
The number of visitors aged 15 years and over reached 7.2 million in the year, increasing by 680,000 (10%), while nights were up 5% to 248 million. Thirteen of Australia’s top 20 markets had record visitor numbers during the year. The holiday and education segments underpinned the strong growth for the year. Combined, these segments accounted for 66% of total trip spend by international visitors to Australia.
Travel for the purpose of visiting friends and relatives (VFR) increased slightly – up 3% to 1.9 million, while nights were up 2% to 54.8 million, and spend was up 5% to AUD 5.8 billion Arrivals for business and employment both fell, with business
visitor numbers down 4% to 797,300, and business spend down 3% to AUD 3.4 billion. Employment visitors fell 6% to 281,400, while employment spend fell 2% to AUD 2.6 billion.
Thirteen of Australia’s top 20 markets had record visitor arrivals during the year including New Zealand, China, the US, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Germany, Scandinavia, Thailand and Switzerland.
- Nights spent in hotels, motels and resorts increased 9% to 27.5 million on the back of strong growth in the holiday segment, while nights spent at guest houses and bed and
- breakfasts increased 29% to 1.3 million;
- Spend on inclusive package travel grew strongly by 22% to AUD 4.5 billion;
- First-time visitor numbers were up 12% and return visitors 10%;
- Backpacker visitor numbers increased slightly, up 2% to 611,900;
- Growth in travel party type was highest for adult couples, and friends and family travelling together, both increasing by 16% to 1.5 million and 804,200 respectively.
- Those travelling alone increased 7% to 3.7 million and accounted for 52% of all arrivals.
China continues its impressive growth with 1.1 million visitors to Australia (up 23%), staying 41.6 million nights (up 13%) and spending a total of AUD 8.9 billion (27%).
That was followed by strong numbers out of the United States with 619,000 visitors (up 14%), staying 14.1 million nights (up 11%) and spending a record AUD 3.6 billion (up 20%).
‘I don’t believe we should be happy with AUD 38.1 billion’
Commenting on the new figures, TTF chief executive, Margy Osmond, said that while Australia’s visitor economy “continued to be the good news story, we cannot maintain this strong performance without a concerted effort, by both government and the private sector, to develop an economic strategy that will allow the sector to reach its full potential.
“The challenge for the 45th Federal Parliament is not to drop the ball on backing the visitor economy. The international visitor market is becoming increasingly cutthroat as more nations wake up to the economic benefits of a strong tourism sector.
“Quite frankly, I don’t believe we should be happy with AUD 38.1 billion in international expenditure. We can do a lot better than that considering Australia is attracting less than 1% of the potential Chinese visitor market.
“Australia simply cannot afford to sit back and expect that ‘The Rock, The Reef and The House’ is enough on its own to maintain the strong double digit growth we have been experiencing in visitor numbers and international expenditure.”
Osmond said before the July Election, TTF released an economic plan for the Government to slash the fees and charges which add to the cost of travelling to Australia; support industry securing its workforce for the future; build the visitor infrastructure and public transport that improves the experience of visiting our cities and regions; and recognise the importance of improving the visitor experience at our international gateways.
“An immediate step that the Federal Government can take to support the visitor economy is to scrap the ill-considered backpacker tax.
“We know from a survey of backpackers by Monash University and YHA that the Government is risking a 60% exodus of working holiday makers if the 32.5% tax becomes law. That will smash regional and rural economies that depend on the spending of visiting backpackers and significantly undermine the ability for tourism operators to secure workers.”
Edited by Peter Needham