Federal budget must invest in tourism and transport

As Treasurer Joe Hockey puts the final touches on the Federal Budget, the Tourism & Transport Forum (TTF) is urging the government to recognise the importance of tourism and transport investment across Australia.

“Against the backdrop of an economy in transition, the government should be supporting the sectors of the economy that can produce growth and drive prosperity. Investing in tourism and transport should be a no brainer,” said Chief Executive Officer Margy Osmond.

“Over and over again reports have noted the possibility that exists with these sectors, but we are yet to see a government willing to take the plunge and properly invest in their potential.

“The government must recognise the importance of tourism marketing to the visitor economy and increase Tourism Australia funding in real terms over the forward estimates. Tourism marketing spending delivers great value for public funds. Analysis undertaken by Tourism Australia estimates its return on marketing investment is around 15:1. This means that for every $1 million spent by Tourism Australia on promoting Australia, $15 million is generated in additional tourism expenditure in Australia.

“The government should also be looking closely at visa reform. Visa costs and processing times can act as a barrier to travel to Australia for international tourists, especially if travelling to competitor markets is easier and cheaper. While we have applauded the government’s moves to online processing for Chinese visitor visas, visitors from mainland China are still paying around seven times more for their visas than visitors from Hong Kong or the United States. The government must make our visa system more competitive or other destinations will overtake us.

“Industry is also looking for a commitment on the biggest tourism tax of all, the Passenger Movement Charge. This tax, which is levied at $55 for every outbound passenger from Australia, regardless of whether they are flying to New Zealand or London, is the highest short-haul travel charge in the OECD. While the government has frozen the Passenger Movement Charge in this term of parliament, industry wants government to start to reduce this tax to make us competitive.

“Finally, in recent years, there has been a discussion about the role of the Commonwealth in providing funding for urban public transport infrastructure. TTF has consistently argued that improving public transport is critical to improving national productivity and the liveability of our cities and the federal government should be supporting the states in building vital projects. There is no reason why the Commonwealth should fund an urban motorway but not an urban rail line.

“While we recognise the Government’s Asset Recycling Initiative will provide $5 billion to be invested in infrastructure assets around Australia, there is more to do. For example, the Western Sydney Airport at Badgerys Creek should not be left without a rail connection. Given the significant investment already being made on this project, we should be seeking to maximise its viability and potential and a rail link is one, very clear way to achieve this.

“Let’s not get cold feet about these opportunities. The measures we propose are investments in the future prosperity of our nation. I urge the government to think carefully about the possibilities that lie within our grasp and back our tourism and transport sectors.”