Backpacker tax deju vu, international visitors rising and TTF Leadership Summit now open

Why does this feel like déjà vu? A Government announces a tourism tax hike without any consultation with industry and it becomes an absolute debacle. I’ve seen this movie – the Government has released a sequel to its terrible flop, the backpacker tax. Now it’s the $60 holiday tax on every overseas traveller and the audience reaction is just as poor as it was to the last one.

I have to say bravo Albo, Chris Bowen and Joel Fitzgibbon for sending the Government’s holiday tax hike off to a Senate inquiry. Industry is absolutely livid that this was included in the backpacker tax compromise package without any consultation or forewarning that it was being considered. A Senate inquiry will give us the opportunity to put our case forward why applying a $60 holiday tax on travellers from 1 July 2017 is just plain bad news for Australia’s visitor economy.

This new cash-grab is extremely disappointing because the compromise that has been reached on the backpacker tax is, on the whole, a much fairer one than the original proposal and the Government incorporated a number of suggestions made by TTF and other industry associations. Unfortunately, the hard work to find that compromise now risks being undermined by a Government decision to include the ‘holiday tax’ hike as part of the package.

The Labor Opposition has recognised that the tourism industry can no longer be treated as a cash cow to prop up the budget but is a serious super-growth sector for the Australian economy that will deliver jobs and economic growth in the decades to come. The holiday tax is already raising nearly $1 billion each year – $750 million more than it costs to provide passenger facilitation services at our international gateways. That is a 300 per cent profit straight into the Government’s coffers at the expense of travellers.

Millions of Australians and our international visitors scrimp and save their dollars to be able to afford a family getaway, they deserve better than a Government reaching into their travel budgets to take yet more money out of their holiday fund. For a family of four with two children over 12 years that is $240 that will be taken out of the family holiday budget before they have even set foot on an aeroplane or cruise ship. An extra $240 in the pockets of visitors to Australia can pay for another night’s accommodation, a theme park excursion or a couple of days’ car hire – that means jobs and more spending in our visitor economy.

Our message to the Federal Government will be quite clear – industry is calling for the reversal of its decision to hike the holiday tax and instead work with industry to grow our visitor economy through positive policies that attract more visitors. TTF looks forward to the opportunity to contribute to a Senate inquiry to ensure that the best interests of Australia’s visitor economy are taken into account.

Again, this week our political leaders have been reminded of what is at stake if they continue to go overboard in the hiking of taxes and charges on the tourism industry. The latest ABS overseas arrivals figures confirm nearly 8 million international visitors in the 12 months to August 2016. That represents a 10.9 per cent increase over the previous year. We recorded growth of over 20 per cent from China, Japan and South Korea and an impressive 17.4 per cent from the USA. We can do even better than this strong result if we back the visitor economy with a positive plan to support industry. Slapping a $60 holiday tax on visitors is definitely not the right approach.

It’s my great pleasure to announce that registration is now open for the TTF Leadership Summit in Parliament House Canberra on 23 November. Leadership Summit is one of the major events of the political calendar and this year is no different. We have already secured Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to deliver the opening keynote address and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten will address the Summit as well. Leadership Summit comes at the opportune time for us to make the case to our political leaders why they need to stop treating the industry as a cash cow and why we should take our rightful place as a key pillar of Australia’s future economy.

Looking forward to seeing you in Canberra. Make sure you get your seat ASAP so you don’t miss out!