Oct 29, 2013

Abbott buckpasses tourism to states

Tony Abbott is abandoning domestic tourism, with the Minister for Trade and Investment today dumping responsibility for promotion of the $70 billion sector on state governments.

Speaking via video message at a tourism industry conference in Canberra today, Mr Robb said:

Robb: “It’s time to hand domestic tourism marketing to states & territories”

– Tourism Directions, Canberra, 29 October 2013

Parliamentary Secretary for Industry Bob Baldwin has also cut tourism grants and flagged a move of quality accreditation back to industry, increasing costs for operators unless federal funding is provided.

Baldwin:  “The government will return responsibility of T-QUAL accreditation to industry. We will transition that by the end of the financial year.

The government will also refocus funds from tourism grants to demand driven infrastructure.”

– Tourism Directions, Canberra, 29 October 2013

On the face of it, it seems the government is simply looking for excuses to cut funding regardless of the consequences.

Mr Robb and Mr Baldwin must clarify their intentions and guarantee that these changes will not increase the financial burden on an industry sector that employs more than half a million Australians, many of them in regional areas.

Walking away from domestic tourism promotion and leaving the burden to cash-strapped state governments is short-sighted and has potential to cost jobs.

Our nation needs an integrated tourism strategy including leadership from the commonwealth and proper support for industry-led quality assurance, not total abandonment by government.

The previous Labor Government created T-QUAL as a partnership between the Tourism Quality Council of Australia, the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism and Tourism Australia.

The system accredits quality assurance schemes with the T-QUAL Tick and is backed up by marketing that promotes accredited networks.

It is designed to lift the quality of the nation’s tourism product.

Mr Baldwin should be promoting improvements in our tourism sector, but appears instead to have seized upon it as a soft target for cost-cutting.

It’s been a poor start for the Abbott Government in tourism.

After taking office, the Prime Minister failed to appoint a dedicated tourism minister, before appointing two different ministers and two different departments to cover domestic and international tourism.

Less than a month later, under intense pressure from the industry, Mr Abbott then combined the roles after realising that international and domestic guests stay in the same hotels, eat in the same restaurants and see the same sights as each other.

Australian tourism operators deserve better than cuts, confusion and incompetence.