Dec 12, 2014

Abbott government withdraws from world tourism body

Trade Minister Andrew Robb has ordered bureaucrats to cancel Australia’s membership to the world’s leading international tourism organisation, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).

Membership of UNWTO gives the Australian tourism industry, which employs nearly one million Australians, a seat at the table of key international tourism meetings and provides access to crucial world tourism data.

An email sent by a DFAT official to tourism operators made it clear that it was a personal decision of Mr Robb together with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

Following a decision by the Minister for Trade and Investment and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has commenced the process to withdraw Australia as a Full Member of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

This withdrawal has been prompted by questions about the value of benefits of membership to Australia in recent years and follows a comprehensive review in consultation with key industry stakeholders.

UNWTO is the United Nations agency responsible for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism.

There are 156 member countries and Australia has been a member since 2004.

UNWTO promotes tourism as a driver of economic growth, helps member countries to increases competitiveness and promote sustainable tourism development.

While Mr Robb is travelling in Brazil, Chile and Peru this week he should ask their Tourism Ministers about the benefits of being a member of UNWTO.

If Mr Robb won’t listen to the domestic tourism industry about the importance of being a member of UNWTO perhaps he will listen to his counterparts abroad.

Unlike Brazil, Chile and Peru, Australia does not even have a Tourism Minister.

After abandoning the domestic tourism sector by cutting grants and marketing, the Abbott Government is now further withdrawing from the world stage.

Mr Robb must explain how withdrawing Australia from UNWTO will boost our tourism sector.