The Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) is none too happy about the results of the Aussie Federal Budget released this week.
In fact, despite pre-Budget submissions calling for a range of tourism policies, ATEC feels there’s little forward investment in Australia’s export tourism success.
While Australia enjoys ever increasing international visitor numbers and expenditure, Budget measures announced this evening, including increases to visa charges and a reduction in funding for Tourism Australia, will weaken the industry’s long-term competitiveness.
“Australia’s export tourism industry delivers billions of dollars in revenue to governments and businesses across the country, but tonight’s Federal Budget fails to provide any investment in its sustained growth,” ATEC Managing Director, Peter Shelley said from Parliament House.
“While our industry is clearly generating an enormous amount of tax revenue for Government coffers, we are failing to see any strong investment in ensuring its future and supporting Australia to be a competitive destination.
“Australia has been a bucket-list destination for many years now but we can’t afford to rest on our laurels as a failure to invest in demand driver activities will see our competitiveness weaken over time.
“The two per cent increase to visa fees, including tourist, working holiday and the 10 year visa for Chinese visitors, will be an additional barrier to international visitation.
All in all, this is a beige budget for the tourism industry that continues to water down the effectiveness of Tourism Australia’s marketing budget by failing to even provide for CPI growth.”
Shelley said Government investment in regional Australia through the Regional Growth Fund would be welcomed by regional tourism businesses.
“Capacity building and regional dispersal are real issues for Australia’s tourism industry and this is a fund that we hope will provide an opportunity to build regional tourism businesses and improve their ability to connect with international tourists.
“But for Australia’s tourism industry to be successful we need to support both sides of the tourism equation with government investment in growing demand and improving our ability to deliver a quality tourism product.
“If we can’t reinvest these significant revenues towards generating a stronger tourism product we risk losing our global competitiveness and this is the issue our industry is most concerned about.”
Meanwhile, the Tourism & Transport Forum (TTF) feels the Turnbull Government has 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.
“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 $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.
“Australia is now one of the most expensive countries in the world to obtain a visa for. This visa increase is an extremely short-sighted move that will make it even more expensive for international tourists to come to Australia,” Osmond said.
“The task of competing against the multitude of other destinations for the international tourist dollar has just become a whole lot harder.”
Osmond said the highlight of the 2017-18 Federal Budget for the tourism and transport sectors was undoubtedly the $5.3 billion over ten 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 added.
“The benefit of the Western Sydney Airport to the region’s visitor economy cannot be overstated – it will be a massive economic engine that will drive investment and jobs growth through the roof.
“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.”