Travel Bulletin - - ISUES & TRENDS - Margy Osmond, CEO, Tourism & Trans­port Fo­rum Aus­tralia

No sooner has the Fed­eral Govern­ment fin­ished pick­ing one fight with the tourism in­dus­try over the back­packer tax that it’s now opened a new front by an­nounc­ing it will hike its hol­i­day tax – the Pas­sen­ger Move­ment Charge – to $60 from 1 July 2017. The tourism in­dus­try is ab­so­lutely out­raged that the Fed­eral Govern­ment wants to hike its hol­i­day tax in what is a bla­tant cash grab. There was no warn­ing, no dis­cus­sion be­fore this was an­nounced as part of the Govern­ment’s re­view of the back­packer tax. The lat­est over­seas ar­rivals fig­ures from the ABS con­firm that nearly eight mil­lion in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors came to Aus­tralia in the 12 months to Au­gust 2016. That is up 10.9% on the pre­vi­ous year. A great re­sult but one we put at risk by mak­ing Aus­tralia a less com­pet­i­tive des­ti­na­tion in the Asia-pa­cific by mak­ing travel more ex­pen­sive. The ap­proach to taxes and fees on the tourism sec­tor is like the prover­bial frog in the cold bucket of water that is slowly boiled alive by the ratchet up of these costs – an ex­tra $5 to the Pas­sen­ger Move­ment Charge here, an ex­tra $10 to a visa there. It all adds up to more costly hol­i­days and a dis­in­cen­tive to travel to Aus­tralia. We should be re­duc­ing the cost of travel, not adding to it if we want tourism to take its right­ful place as a su­per growth in­dus­try for the Aus­tralian econ­omy. As the Prime Min­is­ter said dur­ing the elec­tion cam­paign, ‘If you want less of some­thing, tax it more’, and that is ex­actly what the Govern­ment’s cur­rent pol­icy of view­ing tourism as a ‘cash cow’ is go­ing to de­liver. The hol­i­day tax is al­ready rais­ing $1 bil­lion a year on trav­ellers. There is ab­so­lutely no jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for it to be in­creased to $60. The Prime Min­is­ter and Trea­surer talk about be­ing a lower tax­ing Govern­ment but the tourism sec­tor is squarely in the Govern­ment’s crosshairs for tax hikes and fee in­creases. The Fed­eral Govern­ment would like to brush off its tourism tax hike as ‘just a cup of cof­fee’ but the re­al­ity is that the hol­i­day tax on a fam­ily of four is now a $240 cash grab from the fam­ily hol­i­day bud­get that could pay for an ex­tra day’s ac­com­mo­da­tion, a theme park ex­cur­sion or a cou­ple of days’ car hire. If the Govern­ment is se­ri­ous about sup­port­ing a strong fu­ture econ­omy then it should be em­brac­ing poli­cies that back our eco­nomic strengths which in­cludes our grow­ing vis­i­tor econ­omy. The Govern­ment can demon­strate its sup­port for the tourism sec­tor by im­me­di­ately scrap­ping its plan to hike the hol­i­day tax to $60 from 1 July 2017 and work with the in­dus­try to at­tract more in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors to Aus­tralia by mak­ing the sec­tor more com­pet­i­tive.

We should be re­duc­ing the cost of travel, not it...’ adding to

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