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Tourism groups line up to attack federal budget measures

May 11, 2017 Headline News 1 Comment Email Email

The Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) was the first travel and tourism industry group to express disappointment and disapproval of measures in the federal budget, but other groups soon followed.

Main gripes were that Tourism Australia had been hit with a AUD 14 million blow to its budget, which dived from AUD143 million to AUD 129 million, and the government is hiking visa application charges to rake in an extra AUD 410 million in revenue over four years.

AFTA said the government missed the opportunity to harness the future that travel and tourism offered to the Australian economy for now and in the future.

“At a time when the rest of the world is embracing travel and tourism and looking to grow their economies and visitor numbers, this government has missed the flight to success,” AFTA said. For full AFTA statement, see: AFTA disappointed by a lacklustre approach to driving the importance of travel and tourism.

“It is disappointing that once again the travel and tourism industry is asked to pay significant taxes but appears to not have any significant support coming back to it,” AFTA chief executive Jayson Westbury said.

Australia must be competitive to stay on the map

“This government appears to think that the travel and tourism should be the door mat to the Australian economic future. It is simply not good enough and we as an industry we should expect more.”

AFTA’s criticisms included the budget’s “big new tax” (designed to raise AUD 1.2 billion over 4 years) from employers who employ foreign workers on skilled visas.

Tourism Australia would continue to suffer from a lack of indexation of base government funding, AFTA said – and in real terms the federal budget has taken AUD 35 million out of Tourism Australia’s budget over the next four years.

The Tourism and Transport Forum (TTF) said the Turnbull Government had “jeopardised the growth of Australia’s visitor economy and put at risk the ability of the tourism sector to become one of the nation’s largest employment sectors by treating the sector as a cash cow”.

The TTF said the Government had handcuffed Tourism Australia at a time the nation’s visitor economy is on the verge of becoming “a jobs and wealth-generating juggernaut”.

“As the national economy continues to transition from the end of the mining boom to a diversified services-based economy, investing in tourism and transport as the key growth areas of the future should have been a no-brainer,” TTF chief executive, Margy Osmond, said.

“However, instead of recognising the tourism sector as the next super-growth sector, the Government has ripped AUD 35 million out of Tourism Australia over the next four years, and in the process put at immediate risk tourism jobs right across the country – jobs that are dependent on the hundreds of thousands of visitors that come to our shores off the back of Tourism Australia’s destination marketing.

“The harsh reality is that we simply cannot grow the visitor economy to its full potential in the face of extraordinary competition from other markets when the budget of our primary marketing vehicle has been so drastically reduced.”

In more bad news for the sector, visa application charges will now be indexed in line with the CPI.

Australian visas were now among the world’s most expensive, Osmond said.  “This visa increase is an extremely short-sighted move that will make it even more expensive for international tourists to come to Australia.

“The task of competing against the multitude of other destinations for the international tourist dollar has just become a whole lot harder.”

There is a bright spot. The budget earmarked AUD 5.3 billion over 10 years to begin construction of the long-awaited Western Sydney Airport.

“Securing funding to build the Western Sydney Airport has been at the top of TTF’s list for many years now, and we are very pleased to see the Turnbull Government has finally made a rock-solid commitment to get it off the ground,” Osmond said.

“However, it is disappointing the Government has failed to recognise the urgent need for rail access from the airport to the Sydney CBD as a critical piece of infrastructure that will benefit the NSW’s visitor economy and support the long-term development of Western Sydney.”

Osmond said the Government has missed a critical opportunity to fund projects that improve national productivity and the liveability of our cities, including the Melbourne Airport Rail Link and Brisbane’s Cross River Rail.

“Overall, this Budget is a disappointment to the visitor economy. We welcome the announced spending on roads, rail and airports, which will provide a boost for domestic tourism. However, our concern is that the cut to Tourism Australia funding and the increase in visa fees will reduce the international competitiveness of Australia and seriously jeopardise the potential of the sector to boost Australia’s growth and create jobs.”

The Association of Australian Convention Bureaux and Tourism Accommodation Australia noted that the government had failed, once again, to deliver on a 2010 election promise to create a National Convention Bids Fund.

The tourism industry wants the government to provide funding to attract big, lucrative conventions.

In 2016, Australia missed out on 61 international conventions and suffered an 11% decline in overseas visitors travelling here to attend a conference.

Numerous Asia-Pacific rivals, including New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea, make funds available to win bids and subsidies organisers coasts for large conventions.

Written by Peter Needham

Currently there is "1 comment" on this Article:

  1. Brent McCunn says:

    re increasing visa fees. As many countries work on a ‘tit for tat’ basis, or ‘bilateral agreements’ in political speak, Aussies will find many of the visa fees they will pay to travel to a country will increase. A prime example would be Russia. Currently $135 fee for a tourist visa, $405 for business. A European passport holder pays $60, no matter which type.

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