Message from the Chair, Martin Ferguson

November 24, 2015

We have seen a number of decisions in the past month that indicate progress by the Government in understanding the needs of the tourism and hospitality sector.

The introduction of three year multiple entry visas for Indonesian citizens will make it far easier for Indonesians to visit Australia. With the country’s proximity to Australia, with increasing air capacity and with the rapidly growing Indonesian middle class, the move will help stimulate travel to and business with Australia.

The recognition of the important contribution of international markets to visitation is further reinforced by the finalisation of trials of agent-lodged online visitor applications in China and India. These will be rolled out fully to all individuals in China during 2016 and India in 2017.  This will see online lodgement available to almost all Visitor visa applicants by the end of 2017.

On the labour front, one of the most exciting initiatives is the Northern Australia White Paper recommendations on more flexible foreign worker arrangements.  This suite of measures seeks to address the issue of lack of access to skilled workers in remote and regional Australia and includes more flexibility around access to foreign workers on 457 Visas and the extension of the Working Holiday Maker visa. These are issues that TAA has been very vocal about for some time.

While we need to accelerate training and career development programs within the Australian hotel industry, the pace of hotel expansion is set to reach record levels and we will not be able to create enough skilled roles to cater for the growth in the industry over the next five years.

The issue of regional accommodation, which is lagging behind many of its city counterparts, has been demonstrated clearly in Tourism Research Australia’s State of the Industry 2015 report, released recently. According to the research, regional occupancies have fallen 2.2 percentage points to 53.8 percent driven by a decline in room nights and total takings from accommodation regionally declined by 2.7 percent, driven by decreased regional room supply and room nights available. This means that not only are they facing issues with accessing skilled staff, they are facing major cost pressures as occupancies and takings decrease.

The situation is exacerbated by the continuing increase in unregulated accommodation, which can operate without the regulatory and running costs of legitimate operators.  TAA is representing the industry strongly on all these issues, and progress is encouraging. The need for more balanced regulation of commercial accommodation operators is increasingly being recognised on both sides of the political fence.

 

Martin Ferguson

Chair TAA