It was Gustave Flaubert who said:
Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.
Tonight, as we gather on this remote station, under this expanse of stars, in this red heart of central Australia, I wouldn’t be the only one to feel this way.
Thank you Central Tourism Australia for the invitation to address this celebration tonight.
I note that it is also the TCA Awards Ceremony’s 10th anniversary – what an extraordinary showcase of the industry’s success – congratulations.
Congratulations also to the award nominees and recipients.
I want to acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of the land on which we meet tonight – past, present and future.
This land is steeped in a rich culture and heritage.
It has a history that goes back many thousands of years to the Dreaming, where it is said a caterpillar helped form the Alice Springs landscape, including the Gap that we passed through on our way here tonight.
A rocky archipelago in a burnt red desert sea.
This sacred land entices travellers from countries around the world.
Those who have arrived in Australia over the last 200 years can learn about the importance of respecting our natural environment from the traditional owners of our land.
We are indebted to the first people, who have played a unique role in this region, passing on their knowledge to every people since the Dreamtime.
The growth of tourism in Australia is inextricably linked with this.
Australia’s vastness and its varied landscapes gift travellers with a myriad of experiences.
In no other country can you snorkel amongst the brightly coloured coral at the Great Barrier Reef, or swim with the whale sharks at Ningaloo, or see the night sky set in over Uluru.
In Australia there is always more to see.
But as the creep of climate change continues, we must be prepared.
Governments must show leadership.
We have a responsibility to preserve our prized, culturally significant, natural assets.
We also have a responsibility to the hundreds of communities scattered across Australia that rely on tourism for their livelihood.
We cannot fail in this endeavor.
Tourism is our nation’s largest services export and employs more than one million Australians.
There are more than 276,000 tourism businesses in Australia, which deliver $94.5 billion in revenue every year.
It’s a super growth sector.
Central Australia is proof of this.
Over the last financial year visitor numbers increased by almost 10 per cent.
And already this financial year tourism providers are experiencing strong demand.
Of course a large part of this success is our hardworking tourism sector.
But it also shows the importance of Commonwealth leadership.
We must invest in tourism infrastructure, provide adequate resources for marketing and research, support taxation arrangements conducive to the industry’s growth and pursue visa reform.
We must protect our natural assets, build skills and career pathways and use government to attract more major events and exhibitions.
Over the past three years I’ve enjoyed building a collaborative partnership with providers across the nation.
Tourism is at its most successful when people come together.
I look forward to continuing to work with you – have a great night.