We can all be winners when the Poms ar­rive

Herald Sun - - OPINION - AN­THONY AL­BANESE

AS the days get warmer and longer, you can al­most smell the ap­proach­ing con­test. The Poms are com­ing. And while Aus­tralia’s im­me­di­ate con­cern will be whether our crick­eters can win back the Ashes, the added bonus of stag­ing the biggest event on the in­ter­na­tional cricket cal­en­dar is the ex­tra­or­di­nary op­por­tu­nity it will pro­vide for our tourism in­dus­try.

Ac­cord­ing to the Barmy Army — the Poms’ fa­nat­i­cal trav­el­ling sup­port­ers’ group — as many as 30,000 English fans will visit Aus­tralia this sum­mer.

Early this year, co-founder Dave Pea­cock said many trav­ellers would spend as much as $25,000 each on their 51-day tours.

It is in our na­tional in­ter­est to aim for a dou­ble vic­tory by en­cour­ag­ing the Poms to leave as many of their hard-earned pounds behind as pos­si­ble. Sports tourism is big busi­ness. It’s about jobs.

The last time Aus­tralia hosted the Ashes, in 2013-14, we recorded a clean sweep, thanks in no small part to player of the se­ries Mitchell John­son. But the vic­tory was sweet­ened by the 14 per cent in­crease in the num­ber of Bri­tish tourists who vis­ited that sum­mer.

So as the 2017-18 sum­mer ap­proaches, our tourism in­dus­try needs to be gear­ing up to max­imise the fi­nan­cial re­turns.

The Ashes gives lo­cals a chance to see our team take on the Old En­emy, while in­ter­na­tional visi­tors get a taste of what Aus­tralia has to offer as they travel the coun­try.

The chal­lenge for our tourism op­er­a­tors is to make the most of the op­por­tu­nity. Their task is to snare the trav­ellers be­tween fix­tures to en­joy our broader tourism of­fer­ings. Author­i­ties in Townsville are al­ready plan­ning to make the most of the tourism spinoffs from the warm-up match from Novem­ber 15 to 18 be­tween Eng­land and an Aus­tralian XI.

The aim is to en­tice the visi­tors to stick around and spend more money in the lo­cal econ­omy and also en­cour­age more of their fam­ily and friends to visit Aus­tralia.

Townsville En­ter­prise Tourism and Events di­rec­tor Brid­get Woods said the city’s suc­cess in be­ing named to host this match was noth­ing short of mo­men­tous. “The Barmy Army and other cricket fans will not only help en­sure the city is booked out for the event, but they will be send­ing pho­tos of them­selves in our city via so­cial me­dia to the world,” she said.

In the same way here in Mel­bourne, Crown will hold a Christ­mas din­ner on the eve of the Boxing Day Test — a match which will, as usual, be the best-at­tended match of the tour in our great­est sport­ing ground.

The Ashes also pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity to en­cour­age dis­per­sal of tourists out­side the big cities so that our smaller com­mu­ni­ties can ben­e­fit from the in­flux of visi­tors.

For in­stance, Vic­to­ria’s stun­ning Morn­ing­ton Penin­sula is only an hour’s drive from Mel­bourne. His­toric Bal­larat is 90 min­utes away. Both of those should be on the check­list for any in­ter­na­tional visi­tor in Mel­bourne for the Ashes.

The push to ex­tract max­i­mum ben­e­fit from the Ashes should not be seen as a one-off. The aim should be to use the Ashes, or other sport­ing events that at­tract visi­tors like the Aus­tralian Open ten­nis, to en­sure the visi­tors en­joy them­selves so much that they make re­turn vis­its.

As the Aus­tralian econ­omy con­tin­ues to move out of the con­struc­tion phase of the min­ing boom, we need to boost job cre­ation in other in­dus­tries.

That is where tourism comes in. Al­ready iden­ti­fied by Deloitte Ac­cess Eco­nomics as one of five su­per growth sec­tors, tourism gen­er­ates $97 bil­lion in eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity a year and sup­ports at least one mil­lion jobs.

WE are al­ready do­ing well. But we can do bet­ter. In re­gional Aus­tralia, in par­tic­u­lar, tourism of­fers ex­tra­or­di­nary po­ten­tial for jobs growth.

There’s no short­age of imag­i­na­tion and in­no­va­tion in Aus­tralian tourism, but it is im­por­tant that govern­ments at all lev­els un­der­stand its po­ten­tial for growth and get behind the sec­tor.

All Aus­tralians can help. We should welcome the Barmy Army with open arms, while cheer­ing against their team. The his­tor­i­cal links be­tween the Britain and Aus­tralia will make that easy enough, as will the fact that the Barmy Army, while no­to­ri­ously one-eyed, sup­ports its team with a good-na­tured spirit that will guar­an­tee a good time for all.

There’s no doubt the cheeky Poms will try to wind us up by, for ex­am­ple, singing You All Live in a Con­vict Colony (to the tune of Bea­tles’ Yel­low Sub­ma­rine).

They will also mer­ci­lessly ridicule Steve Smith, Dave Warner and the other Aussies un­til the last ball is bowled. But each night, they will spend their money in our ho­tels, restau­rants and bars and sup­port many thou­sands of Aus­tralian jobs.

Aus­tralia’s mis­sion this sum­mer is sim­ple: show the Poms a good time, en­cour­age them to re­turn, take all their money and, above all, re­claim the Ashes. AN­THONY AL­BANESE IS THE SHADOW MIN­IS­TER FOR TOURISM

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