Jun 10, 2014

Abbott’s tourism ‘disaster’

Tony Abbott has continued his Government’s process of abandoning Australia’s tourism industry, cutting funding for research of tourism trends amid growing industry anger over his decision to buck-pass domestic tourism promotion to the states.

At a recent Senate Budget Estimates committee hearing Austrade officials confirmed they were cutting jobs at Tourism Research Australia.

The news came as the Australian Bureau of Statistics confirmed government funding cuts had forced it to abandon the Survey of Tourist Accommodation, which provides key data to government, industry and operators.

This data serves as the basis for evidence based policy and investment.

These cuts demonstrate Mr Abbott’s complete lack of commitment to an industry that employs more than one million Australians and is critical to regional economies.

He does not even have a Minister for Tourism.

Mr Abbott pays lip service to an industry that employs almost one million Australians and is critical to the health of regional economies right across the nation.

Research of tourism trends is critical to ensure our industry is working in step with trends in the industry.

And domestic tourism promotion is also important given it accounts for 70% of Australia’s $107 billion tourism industry with overnight visitors spending $51.5 billion last year.

But late last year Mr Abbott ordered Australia’s peak tourism marketing body, Tourism Australia to abandon all domestic tourism marketing activities.

It is little wonder that Australia Tourism Regional Network chairman David Sheldon, speaking on the weekend, declared the Government’s withdrawal from domestic tourism marketing was a ‘recipe for disaster’.

Mr Sheldon, like everyone else in the tourism sector, expressed confusion over the Government’s mixed messages on tourism.

…on the one hand it says that it wants to back the country’s strength, with Tourism recognised as one of the nation’s five super sectors, yet on the other hand walks away from that strength, firstly with odd decisions around the regional tourism grant program, and now with its pending exit from domestic marketing.

DAVID SHELDON, CHAIRMAN, AUSTRALIA TOURISM REGIONAL NETWORK, 9 JUNE 2014

While Mr Abbott wants the states to handle domestic tourism promotion, it is already clear that cash-strapped state and territory governments are unable to deliver.

Last week the Newman Government slashed tourism funding by 20% in the Queensland state Budget, leaving the state’s tourism sector with nowhere to turn.

The Coalition Government also axed Round 2 of the Tourism Industry Regional Fund last year despite 450 tourism operators spending up to $5000 each to submit grant applications that included matching private capital, investment now lost.

Instead of cutting funding, abandoning operators and slashing support for key publications, acknowledge the importance of tourism for the national economy and for more than 929,000 Australians whose jobs depend on tourism.

Appointing a Tourism Minister would be a good place to start.