Holiday tax hike just the tip of the iceberg and the ACT Election Manifesto

The fight against the Federal Government’s plan to increase the Passenger Movement Charge (PMC) to $60 from 1 July is heating up. I’ve done a number of media interviews in the past week since the Government announced its backpacker tax package and the $5 increase in the PMC and I’ve had to challenge the assumption by journalists that $5 is not a deterrent for travel.

The battle that we face in the coming months in relation to the PMC, but more broadly as an industry, is this notion that a $5 increase here to the PMC or a $10 increase to a visa there, has no repercussions for the visitor economy. That is simply untrue.

In the case of the PMC it has been increased from $10 in 1988 to now $60 from 1 July 2017. For a family of four with two kids over 15 years of age the cost of the Government’s holiday tax has increased from $40 to $240 on the cost of their aeroplane or cruise ship ticket – and that’s before they have even set foot on the plane or ship! Add to that the rising cost of visas ranging from $135 to $440 and it ends up being death from a thousand fee increases.

We know that the Federal Government is profiting from its holiday tax to the tune of $750 million a year once we account for the $250 million cost of passenger facilitation services. The $5 increase to the PMC is another $100 million the Government will pocket at the expense of Australia’s visitor economy. Every dollar taken out of the pocket of a visitor to Australia is one less dollar supporting business and jobs in cities, towns and villages across the country.

As Prime Minister Turnbull said during the election, “if you want less of something, tax it more”! I agree with him 100 per cent. It has got to stop and we, with our friends in other industry associations, will be loud in our opposition to this.

Still focused on Canberra and with the ACT Election only a week and a half away, TTF has released our ACT Election Manifesto. It’s a five point plan to continue to support the strong performance of the Territory’s visitor economy. The ACT is coming into its own as a unique visitor destination but we need to maintain the concerted effort of the Territory Government to make sure it can reach its full potential by continuing to invest in the sector.

In the past year we’ve seen domestic visitation to Canberra grow by 17 per cent to 2.4 million Australians and their expenditure while visiting the nation’s capital has increased by 11 per cent to $1.34 billion which is a positive result for the territory’s visitor economy. The concern is that the number of visitor nights has only increased by one per cent during the same period which would indicate that Canberra is attracting more people but collectively they aren’t staying as long as they potentially could be. This should be embraced by the next ACT Government as an opportunity to work with the industry to encourage these millions of Australian visitors to stay longer and experience more of what Canberra has to offer.

On the international front, Canberra attracted 203,000 overseas visitors (up 13 per cent) who spent $420 million (up 16 per cent) and stayed 4.98 million nights (up 9 per cent). A strong performance but with plenty of potential with the commencement of international flights to Singapore and Wellington to do even better.

The visitor economy is only as strong as our willingness to invest in its success. TTF has called for further investment in destination marketing, attracting more business events and major events to the nation’s capital, expanding visitor infrastructure with new attractions such as City to the Lake, growing Canberra’s public transport network through light rail and bus reform, and improving the visitor experience by supporting reform of the Tourist Refund Scheme.

The TTF Election Manifesto will support our advocacy with whomever is successful in the ACT Election on Saturday 15 October and over the coming term of the next Government.