Australia’s tourism industry can only dream of the government support being afforded to the country’s automotive sector, despite its far greater contribution to the nation’s economy, says peak industry body, Tourism & Transport Forum (TTF).
TTF Chief Executive John Lee said the comparisons between the two sectors should give pause for thought.
“Tourism directly employs more than 510,000 Australians across the country and is a key economic driver in many regional areas,” Mr Lee said, “and there are currently an estimated 36,000 job vacancies in tourism nationwide.” “The automotive industry directly employs around 60,000, many in Victoria and South Australia, and its workforce is contracting.
“Tourism’s GVA is $31.5 billion a year, compared to $4.5 billion for the car industry, while tourism exports are $23.7 billion a year, compared to $3.6 billion.
“The car industry has received more than $12 billion in government support over the past decade and this week has received significant additional funding.
“At the same time, Australian tourism is facing the same global challenges as all other industry sectors and tourism remains our only export which is subject to the GST.
“The diversity of geography, products and experiences that is the strength of Australian tourism and underpins its continuing success is ironically also its greatest impediment.
“There are no massive factories which deliver high public visibility and political clout thanks to unionised workforces and global parent companies, rather hundreds of thousands of businesses in every corner of Australia, mostly small to medium enterprises.”
Yet despite the challenges of continuing global economic turmoil and the strong Australian dollar, the latest ABS figures show international tourism to Australia continues to grow.
The ABS’s Overseas Arrivals and Departures for November show international arrivals rose 0.6 per cent for November (compared to November 2010) and were up 0.4 per cent for the year ending November 2011.
Departures rose 8.0 per cent for the month for year-ending growth of 10.0 per cent.
Mr Lee said the growth in arrivals shows international tourists want to come to Australia.
“Australia remains one of the most desirable destinations in the world and Tourism Australia’s two million-plus Facebook friends are testament to that,” Mr Lee said, “but additional spending on tourism marketing is needed to turn that goodwill and intention to travel to Australia into arrivals.”
“Greater government investment in targeted advertising and promotional campaigns in key international growth markets can create further demand.
“We must also continue to promote Australia in our traditional markets so that we are top of mind when the global economy recovers.”
Mr Lee said while the continuing growth in arrivals is pleasing, it pales in comparison with the growth in departures.
“In the year ending November, departures grew 32 times faster than arrivals, with Australians taking 701,700 more overseas trips compared to an increase in international arrivals of 21,900.
“This shows that we also need to foster the renewal and development of tourism products and experiences to offer a compelling value proposition to Australians and encourage more of them to holiday in Australia, rather than spending their travel dollars overseas.
“If just some of the largesse being lavished on the car industry was spent on tourism instead, we’d be welcoming more international visitors and domestic leisure tourism would be much stronger.”