As Gough Whitlam once so succinctly put it, “It’s time!” With pre-poll now open and Australians starting to cast their ballots on who will govern the country for the next three years, it is indeed time for Labor and the Coalition to release their comprehensive tourism industry policies on how they intend to support one of Australia’s best performing sectors. Tourism is a beacon of light in the gloom of the difficult economic transition we are going through.
The evidence of the strong performance of our industry is not in doubt, but yet again today we’ve seen the release of even more evidence of the powerhouse that is Australia’s visitor economy. The latest National Visitor Survey figures confirm that in the year to March 2016, there were 88.5 million overnight trips (up 8 per cent), 327 million visitor nights (up 5 per cent) and $58.3 billion in overnight expenditure (up 5 per cent). Our message to Mr Turnbull and Mr Shorten is why not back the industry with a positive plan that allows it to reach its full potential?
We’ve had some good policy wins already in this election campaign. The Coalition has committed to delaying the backpacker tax and a whole of government review of working holiday maker visas. Labor has committed to an audit of visas for Australia’s key international markets to make sure they are competitive and committed to investigating reforms of the Tourist Refund Scheme. We have also seen a number of select announcements for additional investment in visitor infrastructure by both parties across the country. But we do need to see the bigger picture plan for the sector and TTF will be continuing to hammer home this point right up until Election Day.
The Queensland Budget was released yesterday afternoon. On the whole it is a positive budget for the industry. The budget recognises the need to invest in the sector by promoting the Sunshine State through strong marketing campaigns and undertaking a concerted effort to attract more high-yield Asian visitors. The Queensland Government’s stretched balance sheet means that projects such as the Cross River Rail, a project that TTF argues is the number one project for the State, will continue to languish as long as the Government refuses to free up the capital locked in its “lazy” infrastructure assets.
On a happy note, a special congratulations to TTF alumni Chris Brown on the birth of his daughter, Molly. No doubt a very joyous occasion for the Brown family who we wish all the happiness in the world with their new addition.