Industry voices visa hike fears

Industry voices visa hike fears
By admin

Tourism bodies have urged the government to consider the impact of increases to the cost of Australian visitor visas, as concerns mount over hikes to the Working Holiday Visa (WHV) charge.

Today’s Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) outlined increases to a number of visa application charges, including the WHV, from January 1. The revised fees are expected to increase receipts by $52 million in 2012/13 and $520 million over four years.

Australian Tourism Export Council managing director Felicia Mariani called on treasurer Wayne Swan to consider the impact of such an increase on Australia’s ability to compete in the international marketplace.

“The government needs to look beyond the short-term tax grab and recognise the significant economic benefit created by the tourism industry in this country,” she said. She described any increases in visa costs as a “short-lived budget gain” that would put the $27 billion contribution of inbound tourism in jeopardy, along with its projected growth.

“This kind of gouging will have a critical impact on our international competitiveness in the lucrative youth market,” Mariani added.

Instead, she pointed to the potential economic benefits that could result from improvements to the WHV guidelines, claiming they have the capacity to increase annual GDP by more than $85 million.

Meanwhile, Tourism and Transport Forum chief executive John Lee insisted that any additional revenues should at least be reinvested into tourism.

“Increasing the cost of entry without reinvesting additional revenues in improving visa processing is the wrong approach and will not help to grow Australia’s visitor economy,” he said.

“Tourism already makes a massive contribution to the national economy, directly employing more than half a million people and generating $25 million in export earnings – it’s time the industry got something back instead of being slugged at every turn.”

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