Anne Majumdar

Australia is doing “pretty well” in the tourism stakes, with a number of major developments boding well for the sector although challenges remain in the form of hefty travel taxes.

Speaking to KarryOn on a recent visit to Sydney, World Travel and Tourism Council president David Scowsill identified Australia as the 11th largest travel and tourism economy in the world.

He referred to National Visitor Survey statistics for the first quarter of the year which show overnight trips are up by 8% with expenditure up by around 5%.

Other “very positive” developments include a recent cabinet reshuffle which saw Steven Ciobo appointed to the tourism portfolio, the first time it has been handed to an inner cabinet minister.

“Australia has always been a leader in many aspects of the industry globally,” Scowsill continued.

He highlighted Australia’s early adoption of e-visas as a particular highlight which acts as a example for other countries around the world.

“63% of travellers still have to fill out a paper form, form a line, pay money, get a visa stamp which is completely crazy compared with the slick automated system that Australia has had in place for many years,” Scowsill said.

“From a security point of view, they are also much more secure than the old fashioned system.”

Advances towards a second airport for Sydney at Badgery’s Creek and infrastructure improvements at the existing airport are also encouraging, according to Scowsill.

However, he highlighted ongoing taxation on travel as a major concern.

The controversial Passenger Movement Charge remains in place with a Backpacker Tax also under consideration.

“Freezing PMC is a good thing but it really shouldn’t be there in first place,” Scowsill argued.

“It’s a vicious tax that is going primarily into government coffers and not coming back into industry like it should be.”

The Tourism and Transport Forum (TTF) also described the Backpacker Tax as “simply absurd”.

Earlier this week, the industry body welcomed the commencement of the working holiday maker visa review, urging the government to abandon the Backpacker Tax.

“Over the past couple of years we have seen a marked decline in the number of applicants for working holiday visas as successive governments have ratcheted up the cost of these visas, now they are also going to be slugged this new 32.5% backpacker tax,” chief executive Margy Osmond raged.

“Something is going to give and it will be an exodus of working holiday makers to other countries rather than Australia.”

How do you think Aussie tourism is tracking?