Industry united in condolence, facing the Senate on PMC, and Leadership Summit closing in

The Australian tourism industry is united in expressing its heartfelt condolences to the families of the four people who tragically lost their lives in the accident at Dreamworld on Tuesday. A formal investigation is now taking place to determine what occurred, and it would be inappropriate and unproductive to make any further comment on this tragedy until the facts are known.

I can say that the Gold Coast has a diverse tourism sector and I am confident that visitors will understand that this tragic accident should not alter their holiday plans to visit the Gold Coast. Tourism is a resilient industry and Australia maintains a strong reputation as a safe and enjoyable destination. Industry will be working very hard with tourism bodies to ensure that remains the case.

I’ve been in Canberra today appearing before the Senate inquiry into the Government’s backpacker tax package which includes increasing the Passenger Movement Charge to $60 from 1 July 2017 with my other industry colleagues. I tabled an analysis by KPMG that confirms the Federal Government will raise the $540 million target it has arbitrarily set itself through the proposed changes to how backpackers are treated for tax purposes without the need to increase the holiday tax as well.

The tourism industry does not accept that the holiday tax hike must be considered lock-step with the backpacker tax package. They are two separate issues and as the KMPG analysis, that TTF has had commissioned shows, it is completely unnecessary for the Government to reach its desired revenue raising goal of $540 million over the forward estimates.

The Government wants this tax package to “wash its face”, and that’s fine, but it doesn’t have to take the travelling public to the cleaners. TTF’s position is that the reform package for working holiday makers should be supported by the Parliament to allow industry to secure its workforce and work to rebuild the working holiday market through the $10 million funding allocation to Tourism Australia to run a promotional campaign.

The Government should never have included an increase to the Passenger Movement Charge in the reform package it announced last month and TTF has made the strongest case in the inquiry why hiking the holiday tax should be abandoned.

The Passenger Movement Charge is a $1 billion tax on travel. It was introduced as a cost-recovery charge for passenger facilitation services (customs, border security) at our international gateways. The cost of providing those services is estimated to be around $250 million, meaning that the Federal Government is profiting to the tune of $750 million a year. That alone should be reason enough for the cash grab to be knocked back by the Senate.

But in a broader sense we are talking about an industry that is incredibly sensitive to price. Tourism is a global industry and Australia is competing with destinations, many of which are much shorter distance than Australia, that are aggressively cutting the cost of travel.

The Federal Government is very keen to dismiss this as just a $5 increase or “a cup of coffee”. No, it will now be a $60 tax on travel. That is $240 for a family of four (over the age of 12). But when you add that to other travel costs such as the $135 visa charge for a Chinese visitor – visa fees plus the holiday tax, it brings the total cost of travel to Australia to nearly $200 per person.

The holiday tax hike is completely unnecessary and bad policy and we will be continuing to make the case for the increase to be dropped as the legislation comes to a vote in the Senate.

We are now less than one month away from our premier event in Parliament House Canberra – TTF Leadership Summit 2016. Thank you to everyone who has been getting in early with their registrations. Now is the time to be locking in your spot and booking your accommodation so that you don’t miss out. We’ve already locked in Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten as keynote speakers. We are working on a few other surprises that we will be announcing shortly so make sure you don’t miss out!