Message from the Chairman

June 30, 2016

On the eve of the election, one thing that the British European Union referendum should tell us is that nothing is fully predictable in today’s politics.

For tourism and hospitality, both parties have been supportive, without offering significant additional spending promises. While the talk of the services economy is loud and positive, funding promises still go largely to the ‘old’ industries, despite the power and potential of jobs in our industry.

What is essential is that in the post election period that the industry holds both political parties to some key commitments, including:

  • Abolishing or significantly ameliorating the ‘backpacker tax’, which has been suspended for six months but needs to be totally removed as Australia is already suffering a decline in backpackers and this is seriously impacting hotel and tourism labour resources;
  • Reform of outdated excessive penalty rate provisions on Sundays and public holidays to encourage more hospitality businesses to open and create additional jobs;
  • Increased Government support for training and development, as our industry is experiencing serious shortages in both skilled and unskilled positions. Innovations such as last month’s Hotel Career Expo need to be amplified to encourage greater home-grown careers and skills development;  
  • Significant spending on tourism infrastructure, especially in regional areas;
  • Liberalisation of tourist visa application process;
  • Major investment in tourism marketing and research.

In the meantime, many of the States and Territories have delivered their budgets with strong support for tourism industries. There has been a welcome focus on regional areas, which have generally not shared in the tourism boom of the past five years to the same degree as cities like Sydney and Melbourne.

We will also be making even stronger submissions to curtail the growth of unregulated short-term accommodation operators. Importantly, major international cities such as Los Angeles, New York and Paris have made their strongest moves to date to act against commercial operators, and there is a general recognition now that operators such as Airbnb have gone way beyond their initial ‘sharing’ concept and are using their internet platform to circumvent building, strata, local, state and federal regulations with the simple motive of profit.

While uncertainty is not good for any industry, the latest National Visitor Survey and International Visitor Survey results were very strong for local tourism and with new hotels and new tourism infrastructure opening or under construction at record levels, prospects for the year ahead – whoever wins the election – are very encouraging.

Martin Ferguson, Chair, TAA