Putting tourism at the centre of the Federal Election – Margy Osmond, TTF CEO

Its election season and the Tourism & Transport Forum Australia (TTF) is fighting hard on behalf of the sector to ensure that the visitor economy remains front and centre of the policy debate in the lead up to polling day.

We are, after all, one of the key super-growth sectors that is being called upon to do the heavy lifting of keeping the economy growing and the jobs coming for thousands of Australians as mining boom ends.

Everyone in our sector can be an advocate for a stronger visitor economy and now is the time to be having that conversation with your local MP/candidates or even a Minister/Shadow Minister if they are popping into town for a photo op.

Politicians will be out in force in shopping centres, train stations, local events and even showing up on your front door step. Take the opportunity to tell them they need to be doing more to support the visitor economy – businesses, employees and travellers.

The latest ABS figures show that the tourism sector’s direct contribution to the Australian economy was an impressive $47.5 billion – or 3% of GDP. That is an increase of 5.3% which is three times the growth of the total economy. Pretty impressive!

The tourism industry now directly supports 580,800 jobs (up 6.3%) and with related employment we are generating nearly one million jobs across the economy – that’s a job for 1 in 10 Australians in the workforce. We could double that with a tourism-focused economic strategy.

Australia is now attracting more than one million Chinese visitors and they are spending $8.3 billion a year –25% of the total international visitor spend.

Doesn’t that sound like an industry that a Government which wants to transition the economy to a services-based economy, should be backing more?

Our politicians can do that very easily by:

  • Investing more money in Tourism Australia and its fantastic international marketing campaigns. Research shows that every dollar invested generates a $15 return;
  • Reducing the cost of visas for key growth markets like China. $135 for a visa to visit Australia is not the best welcoming message when other nations are cutting their visa fees;
  • Maintaining the freeze on the $55 Passenger Movement Charge which has become an almost $1 billion holiday tax charged on everyone travelling out of Australia – or even better start cutting the fee;
  • Scrapping the planned 32.5% backpacker tax on working holiday makers and invest in training to help industry meet the 123,000 worker shortfall by 2020;
  • Improving the visitor experience at the border with the roll out of biometric technology and automation and a stronger focus on getting the balance right between security and customer service; and
  • Getting on with the job of building the public transport and visitor infrastructure we need to make our cities and regions more attractive destinations.”

TTF will fight the good fight on the industry’s behalf, but let’s work to get the message out there together.

This opinion piece appeared in the June edition of Travel Bulletin magazine.