Tourism Australia managing director Andrew McEvoy has insisted the industry can hit the top end of its 2020 targets if the dollar falls and the government relaxes certain visa restrictions.
He told Travel Today he was pleased with the current growth trajectory – which put tourism on course to hit the lower end of its targets – but predicted more could be achieved.
Tourism Australia has set a goal to double overnight expenditure to between $115 billion and $140 billion by the end of the decade.
Speaking to Travel Today on the sidelines of the Tourism Directions conference in Canberra yesterday, McEvoy said a currency exchange rate around the 80 cent mark would go a long way to seeing the upper target reached.
“I disagree with people who say the high dollar is a deterrent and keeps people away, but if the dollar comes down to an average of 80 to 85 cents it will mean visitors will leave more value in Australia and you can't forget that the 2020 target is a dollar value goal,” he said. “If someone comes with 2000 pounds, it will buy more Australian dollars and you’ll see the yield for Australian tourism operators go up.”
He denied he was disappointed with the current rate of growth, describing himself as “pretty pleased”.
“When we wrote the 2020 plan the trend was towards $95 billion and now the forecasters say at the very least we’ll get to $115b so in three of four years we’ve seen an $18b improvement in our performance,” he said. “The big stretch now is the next $25b to get to the top of the mark. I think we can do that.”
He continued: “When we wrote the plan we really underestimated how big China could be and we probably overestimated some markets like Japan and perhaps Korea so it’s all balancing out. And the US has really bounced back.
“I think they’ll be exponential growth out of markets like Indonesia and India and we’re seeing some new and emerging stuff that we didn’t consider so much like the Philippines and Vietnam. South America is also really coming along.
“So it’s swings and roundabouts. I think we’re going to do better than $115b reasonably easily and I really believe we can get to $140b."
McEvoy added that Australia needs to become the world’s best at issuing visas while the government should seek more bilateral agreemeents over working holiday visas.
Allowing visitors with a second year working holiday visa to work in tourism and hospitality should also be a priority.
“We also need to be true to the aviation white paper which says capacity needs to lead demand,” McEvoy said. “We are capped out in a bunch of markets.”
More bilateral aviation agreements need to be struck although he acknowledged it was a “two way street” with the authorities of other countries needing to come to the party.
McEvoy also called for a reform of industrial relations laws which he said makes the industry “marginally unprofitable”.
“Our industry is a seven day a week industry but it’s not treated like that. We have all sorts of clauses and penalties,” he said.