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Ferguson unveils Tourism 2020 plan

Ferguson unveils Tourism 2020 plan
December 7, 2011

Federal Minister for Tourism Martin Ferguson has unveiled a new tourism strategy to "sharpen Australia's competitive edge" and help the industry achieve its goal of doubling overnight tourism expenditure by 2020.

Tourism 2020 integrates features of the National Long-Term Tourism Strategy with the 2020 Tourism Industry Potential's goal of increasing overnight tourism expenditure from $70 billion to $140 billion by the end of the decade.

The strategy represents an updated response to industry challenges which Ferguson identified as strong competition from overseas destinations, skills shortages and the strong Australian dollar.

The new strategy will see industry and the government to work together to overcome these challenges and capitalise on forecasted growth in international and domestic visitor nights and projected demand from Asia.

Minister Ferguson explained "Tourism 2020 is about lifting productivity, innovation and quality by tapping into digital technology, increasing investment through regulatory reform, further expanding our transport capacity and focusing on labour, skills and Indigenous participation.

"Opportunities are on the horizon, with the emergence of Asian markets, such as China, India, Indonesia and new ways of reaching those markets, such as increased aviation capacity and growth in online marketing technology."

Digital technology, investment reforms, expansion of transport capacity, provision of labour and Indigenous participation were highlighted as key priorities of the new plan.

The plan will also see Tourism Australia commit 20% of its marketing budget to the Chinese market.

The Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) welcomed the update but raised concerns over Tourism Australia's ability to effectively connect with Australia's traditional markets after the funding changes, on top of an efficiency dividend of around $4 million, announced last week.

ATEC Managing Director Felicia Mariani stressed that regional tourism must not be overlooked, specifically by plans to increase transport capacity across Australia.

Mariani explained "any such plan in future must include a commitment to enhance regional dispersal and look at ways to support improvements in regional airport infrastructure to support this."

Mariani added that "(ATEC) members, and the tourism industry broadly, are keen to embrace the significant opportunities from our new and emerging markets and this announcement integrates the elements of the National Long-Term Tourism Strategy with the aspirations of the 2020 Tourism Industry Potential taking us to a new phase of industry growth and innovation."

The Tourism & Transport Forum (TTF) was more cautious in it welcome to the updated Tourism 2020 document, calling for immediate action on current issues.

TTF Chief Executive John Lee said there are challenges which require urgent attention, stating "with a fifth Queensland island about to put up the closed sign, there is an urgent need to facilitate investment in regional product."

"As the document released today notes, 46 cents in every tourism dollar is spent in regional Australia.

"We need to address existing problems surrounding tourism investment, with regional leisure destinations suffering due to flat conditions in domestic tourism as Australians continue to choose international holidays – accelerated depreciation can help that happen.

"We are urging the Minister for Immigration to back changes to Working Holiday Maker visas to include hospitality and tourism.

"It is ludicrous that a second-year extension of the visa is available to working holiday makers who complete three months of work in regional Australia across the following industry sectors: plant and animal cultivation; fishing and pearling; tree farming and felling; mining; construction; and specified work in disaster-affected areas, but that the same does not apply to people working in tourism and hospitality.

"We would also urge the minister to fast-track the removal of the six month cap on employment with one employer and reconsider the maximum age limit.

"As the document notes, there are already 36,000 job vacancies in tourism – it also notes that to reach the Tourism Industry Potential, we will need as many as 150,000 additional jobs in tourism by 2020 – starting from 36,000 behind makes this an even more difficult ask.

"We'd also like to see the Pacific Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme extended to include more destinations to ensure Australian tourism businesses can deliver quality customer service, which is essential in ensuring the sustainability of this critical industry.

"If we want to ensure that tourism does continue to contribute to the economic development of regional Australia, that it continues to help fund critical economic infrastructure like airports, hotels, and roads, and that it continues to earn almost 10% of Australia's export income, we need to focus more on tourism in 2012, not just on 2020.

"If we can't get 2012 right, 2020 will be a bridge too far.

"We understand the need to develop the Tourism 2020 plan and to have a strategy in place to deliver long-term growth for the industry, but we can't reach the 2020 goals without fixing existing problems.

"If the goal is to double overnight tourism expenditure to $140 billion by 2020, we need to act now for that to happen.

"That includes providing adequate funding for Tourism Australia, which has had its budget cut by more than $3 million thanks to the latest efficiency dividend increase announced by the Federal Government."

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