So, where the bloody hell are we?
In a time where we are looking to deliver economic stability we can often forget sectors of our economy that, despite all the obstacles, are prospering.
Tourism has long been a great contributor to the Australian economy, driving growth, employment and our image on the world stage.
Under the Coalition government we have now placed tourism alongside both trade and investment. Quite simply we don ‘t consider tourism to be any less of a portfolio than one deserving of a cabinet minister.
It is our largest services export, worth $30 billion each year.
Tourism now directly employs over 500,000 Australians.
Both directly and indirectly, it accounts for 8 percent of the country’s total employment.
There is no other sector that can single-handedly boast such an influential role on both our economy and our relations with other countries.
Today, more international visitors are arriving to explore Australia than ever before. They are spending more, travelling further and staying longer.
From January to April this year there have been 2.3 million visitor arrivals, an increase of 9.2 per cent.
Increasingly, they are coming here to enjoy a clean, green and safe holiday or visit friends and relations.
Visitor arrivals where the purpose of travel was leisure have increased 11.4% in the last twelve months.
We are the first in the world in average spend by international visitors, incredible when you realise that we are 43rd in the world for number of international visitors.
This underlines something that Minister Robb frequently points to? that we are a destination for the high yeilding tourist.
More and more we are becoming a destination for our neighbours in Asia, whilst remaining a desirable country to our traditional tourists in Europe and America.
In the year to March, Australia welcomed 697,000 Chinese tourists? an increase of 14 per cent in just twelve months.
This was combined with record levels of our American friends deciding to go down under, with numbers up 7 per cent to 422,000.
These visitors are no longer staying inside urban centres and? I can report gladly as a rural and regional MP? they have discovered the wonders that exist in country Australia.
Today, 45 cents in every dollar that comes in tourism is spent in the regions.
This translates into strong and stable prosperity for rural townships and communities.
In the cruise industry we are seeing growth of 20% in the last year alone, something that we have recently begun to enjoy in my electorate.
In the town of Portland we received our first cruise ship in March, delivering the community both dollars and jobs.
The 6 busloads of Germans that disembarked spread through the town and went as far Warrnambool, 80 kilometres away, immersing themselves in the indigenous culture.
Others liked the scenery so much that they didn ‘t re-embark and instead hired cars to travel the Great Ocean Road, past the Twelve Apostles, and back to Melbourne where they reunited with their ship.
This cruise to Portland can be said to have truly benefited the whole of the South West coast of Victoria.
The numbers are positive and the growth is strong for tourism.
But now is not the time to be complacent.
Tourism is an industry that I believe has barely begun to achieve its full potential.
Reaching that potential will take determination and focus from both government and business.
In the short to medium term, deregulation and an acknowledgement of the sectors unique workplace conditions must be the priority.
We will do all we can in removing any unnecessary regulation that is restricting growth.
The industry must do its part by advocating its unique requirements in working conditions.
For our part, the government has already taken steps to remove the chains from the sector.
Freezing the passenger movement charge will provide a welcome enticement for visitors who might be put off by prohibitive travel costs, particularly as it has risen 45% under Labor.
The temporary lifting the cap on foreign air capacity into Australia during the busy Chinese New Year period is another small measure that the government did not have to think twice about.
While significant, these measures are small when compared to other industry restraints that can be removed. Rejuvenation and reform in communications, visas, and aviation capacity will be key.
We as a government must show the world’s travellers Australia’s unique quality. We must keep the process of visiting as simple and accessible as possible. We must ensure that there are enough tickets to get here.
For this the government and Minister Robb have provided a record level of funding for Tourism Australia? $143 million? to push an aggressive and targeted marketing campaign.
Restaurant Australia, a campaign to market the great produce and high quality dining that Australia is little-known for, will take the lead in changing attitudes on how the world thinks of bush tucker.
The government has also added 51 countries to be eligible for online visa applications, ensuring that the process is a smooth and accessible one for visitors from these countries.
Similarly, the reforms to the Working Holiday Maker visas are a priority for the Minister in line with our target of achieving the Tourism 2020 goals.
In regards airline capacity, the government must prioritise negotiations with China, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Qatar. These countries hold the highest market demand and the greatest potential to fill the gap in the market.
It is pleasing to see that discussions have begun between Minister Robb and Deputy Prime Minister Truss in order to identify any potential transport regulation that can be reviewed.
In particular, any obstruction by current air service agreements will be looked at closely.
Earlier today some of you at the Australian Tourism Roundtable raised the issue of the discontinuation of the Survey of Tourist Accommodation. I am pleased to advise that Minister Robb and Parliamentary Secretary Ciobo have agreed that the 2013/14 survey will proceed through funding from Austrade, worth $288,000.
We heard your feedback on the importance of this survey to drive investment in the tourism sector and have responded accordingly.
I am also pleased to announce that Austrade will facilitate engagement with Industry and other stakeholders on a sustainable funding model for future years.
It is heartening that John is your NTA Chair. I say this for two reasons.
Firstly, he has brought an attitude to the sector that complements the government’s role in tourism.
Recently, we have succeeded in placing chefs on the Skilled Occupation List, allowing overseas chefs to come to Australia and fill a much needed skills gap in the hospitality industry? a vital part of tourism.
John had much to do with this measure being approved by the independent body.
It is no surprise then that John is also the CEO of the Restaurant and Caterers Association, the industry group that took the case on penalty rates to Fair Work and argued successfully the link between the industry’s high use of casual staff and the prohibitive wages caused by penalty rates in conjunction with casual loading.
The Fair Work Commission, which has in the past dismissed claims that high wages are linked to restricted employment, concluded that there was indeed grounds for change.
This was a historic decision that tourism groups would do well to follow. Government cannot always remove the barriers to growth.
The industry must be an equal partner in lifting these barriers.
Business groups must take what they know is in the best interest of jobs and growth and take that in a compelling argument before the independent authorities.
I commend John for leading by example.
Together, government and the tourism industry can tap a well of potential growth, providing jobs and prosperity in all parts of Australia? from the country to the city.
If we work together we will no longer need to ask?So where the bloody hell are we?
-Check against delivery-
Dan Tehan – Address to the National Tourism Alliance Dinner, Canberra, 24th June 2013.