Tourism gains slightly from budget

The federal budget delivered on Tuesday [May 13] gave some incentives for the travel industry but it largely escaped unscathed.

As foreshadowed by federal tourism minister Andrew Robb earlier this week, funding to Tourism Australia was not slashed but actually was granted extra allocation for its staffing levels to grow to 1696, an extra 175 employees.

The budget included $130 million in base funding for Tourism Australia and $13.5 million towards the Asia Marketing Fund plus a new $43.1 million Tourism Demand-Driver Infrastructure Program to boost Australian tourism: “As the states and territories are best-placed to decide their tourism infrastructure priorities, funds from the Tourism Demand-Driver Infrastructure Program will be provided to individual jurisdictions.”

The government will also allocate up to $600,000 to transition responsibility for the T-QUAL accreditation program from government to industry.

In a big China focus, $10.1 million for the Australia-China Approved Destination Status scheme has been set to ensure that the experience of Chinese tourists in Australia continues to improve. There will also be $2 million in funding for Australia Week in China to hold the event again in 2016.

Other aspects of the budget that may assist the tourist industry include rewards for hiring older workers (up to $10,000 for re-training etc), the axing of the carbon tax (yet to pass through the senate) and a 1.5% cut in the company tax rate but, offsetting that, is the fuel excise rise.

The merging of customs and immigration with the loss of 480 jobs is not likely to help the tourist industry or speed up airport egress.

Managing director of Tourism Accommodation Australia, Rodger Powell, said, “We are pleased that the government has maintained Tourism Australia’s resources, as they have demonstrated considerable success in growing the inbound market in recent years. We also welcome the allocation of additional funding for marketing efforts in Asian growth markets, with Chinese visitors expected to generate over $13 billion in tourism revenue by 2020.

“The announcement of the new Tourism Demand Driver Infrastructure grants program with the states is particularly welcome.

“A positive example of this is the $150 million allocated to the Gold Coast to invest in infrastructure to host the Commonwealth Games. This will have a long term impact on all accommodation and tourism operators in the region as it will significantly increase the Gold Coast’s ability to attract and create future major events and conferences.”

Chief executive of the Tourism and Transport Forum, Ken Morrison, said, “The government has wisely decided to reject the Commission of Audit recommendations to slash Tourism Australia funding.

“The government has identified tourism as one of five National Investment Priorities and we welcome that as a sign the government understands that tourism is an economic development strategy for Australia.”

The government has re-committed to the ambitious Tourism 2020 target of doubling overnight visitor expenditure by the end of the decade to more than $115 billion.

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