Tourism bodies in Australia are delighted with the decision by Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett to take over responsibility for the tourism portfolio himself.
“The visitor economy can no longer be viewed as ‘flip-flops and bikinis’, it’s time for it to take its rightful place as an economic portfolio around the Cabinet table – right alongside the heavy hitters of Treasury, State and Regional Development, Education and Health,” said Tourism & Transport Forum Australia (TTF) chief executive Margy Osmond.
The Accommodation Association of Australia, speaking on behalf of operators of accommodation businesses, welcomed the elevation of the WA tourism portfolio but said it should be followed with additional support measures for the industry.
The TTF’s Osmond said Barnett’s decision to assume the tourism portfolio sent a strong message “that the visitor economy is key to the future growth of the state’s economy”.
“The experience, both domestic and internationally, is an increasing investment from Government into their visitor economies and a prioritising of the sector in their economic strategies. TTF is very pleased to see the Western Australian Government taking this path.
“TTF has been a vocal advocate of the growing importance of the visitor economy to the nation’s future economic success and we’ve been encouraging Federal and State Governments to nurture its continuing success by elevating its importance in decision making.
“Western Australia is performing well in the domestic market – more than 8.467 million overnight trips (up 9%), 41.6 million visitor nights (up 14%) and AUD 6.7 billion in expenditure (up 6%) according to the latest figures.
“There is an opportunity to strengthen Western Australia’s international offering with the latest figures showing a decline in international visitor expenditure (down 4%) even though the number of overseas visitors increased to 849,000 (up 3%).
“TTF looks forward to the opportunity to work with the Premier to strengthen the Western Australian visitor economy and help the State transition from a resource-based economy to one which is diversified with a strong job-generating tourism sector.”
The Accommodation Association of Australia said investing in business events and tourism marketing would directly translate to higher levels of employment in WA.
“Premier Barnett is to be commended for adding the tourism portfolio to his responsibilities as Premier, a move which is set to significantly raise the profile of tourism in WA,” said the association’s chief executive, Richard Munro.
“Similar initiatives by leaders to also become Minister for Tourism, including Premier Will Hodgman in Tasmania and Prime Minister John Key in New Zealand, have proven to be extremely successful for the accommodation industry and we look forward to similar outcomes in WA.
“However, our industry has been feeling the effects of the WA Government’s decision to decrease funding to the Perth Convention Bureau.
“Business events have and continue to be one of the strongest drivers of business in WA’s accommodation industry and it’s important the Government recognises this.
“The downturn in the mining industry has hit WA and Queensland the hardest and the sooner the economies in these states capitalise on the transition to services industries, such as tourism, the better,” Munro said.
“Additional support for tourism marketing and increased air access to Perth will help to accelerate this process.”
Edited by Peter Needham