Tourism is big, it is jobs-rich and it matters. Tourism is one of Australia's great strengths – and in life you should leverage your strengths.
Organisations like the Tourism and Transport Forum (TTF) are right to assert that tourism can and should be an economic growth strategy for Australia.
Global expenditure in tourism is forecast to double over the next 20 years.
So the opportunities are immense but the opportunities won't fall into our laps.
Tourism placed in the Foreign Affairs and Trade Portfolio
That is why we took a very conscious decision to include tourism as a key element of our broader trade and investment agenda.
By placing tourism within Foreign Affairs and Trade, we are enhancing the relationship between Tourism Australia and Austrade.
We are strengthening Australia's branding and positioning abroad, ensuring that the focus of our diplomats is on economic diplomacy.
Because of the people-to-people links that tourism generates, tourism will support our economic diplomacy agenda both regionally and globally.
The Minister for Tourism
I am aware that recently the Shadow Minister for Tourism has made some vacuous claims that I'm unable to support tourism and that there is no 'Minister for Tourism'.
Let me tell you, as a Cabinet Minister, in the last 8 weeks since getting these responsibilities I have had in excess of 10 roundtables in 5 different countries.
This has included 5 roundtables in China, with some of the most significant investors into Australia.
These groups are the gatekeepers to billions of dollars of potential investment into Australia.
Included at every one of those roundtables were people with the capacity and interest in significant high-grade investment in tourism infrastructure in Australia.
There would not have been a single junior minister in the previous government that would have had one of those opportunities.
I also met with the Chinese Ambassador and discussed visa issues affecting the entry of Chinese visitors, both business and leisure, into Australia.
I am working with senior levels of Chinese government regarding the marketing and promotion of Australian providers in China.
I have considerable experience in tourism, I am the Tourism Minister as well as Trade and Investment, and I'm looking at tourism in a very integrated and strategic way.
In that regard my observation is that you can see the demographic is changing in China.
It's changing from group tours to couples and individuals, who are looking for independent, high-value and high-yield experiences.
Australia ranks 43rd in the world for tourism arrivals but we are ranked 1st in terms of spend per visitor.
So we are a high-quality destination but we need more capacity, more supply.
We need tourism infrastructure, and it takes the clout of a senior Cabinet minister to have an impact in harnessing tourism investment into Australia.
So when I say that tourism is a big part of my plan to increase export income, attract more international investment, create more jobs and strengthen Australia's prosperity – I mean it.
State of the Tourism Industry
I believe our industry is in a good place, but there is room to grow and improve our offerings to visitors.
Visitation from Greater China continues to grow, and we are just shy of achieving one million arrivals from Greater China in a twelve month period.
But overall the figures show the industry is tracking at the lower end of the Tourism Industry Potential range, currently at $80 billion.
I met in October with state and territory Tourism Ministers to outline my commitment to work across jurisdictions to implement Tourism 2020.
We will seek to achieve the target of doubling overnight expenditure to between $115 and $140 billion by 2020 through a set of four guiding policy principles.
Firstly, we want to encourage high quality tourism experiences, including indigenous tourism.
That's why we will transfer industry accreditation back to the industry, because it is industry and not the bureaucracy who know what a quality tourism offering looks like.
We will introduce online lodgement for visitor visas; work towards multiple entry visas to encourage repeat visits and consider trialling a premium visa processing system.
These measures will improve the visitor experience from point-of-arrival to point-of-departure.
Secondly, we want to limit the tax, red tape and other regulatory burden industry faces.
That's why we will scrap the carbon tax, which the Tourism Accommodation of Australia estimates will cost the industry up to $115 million in its first year and reduce profitability by 12%.
It is also why I announced a freeze of the Passenger Movement Charge (PMC) which increased 45% under the previous government.
We will reduce the company tax rate by 1.5 per cent, so that from 1 July 2015 tourism businesses will pay a reduced rate of 28.5%.
Thirdly, we want marketing campaigns to be effective, coordinated and to drive demand.
It was a Coalition Government that created Tourism Australia and we remain entirely committed to its role.
We will allocate all funding from the Asian Marketing Fund directly to Tourism Australia.
Global competition for tourist dollar is fierce, and that's why Tourism Australia will focus their efforts squarely on enhancing visitation from international markets, thereby enhancing our national income.
It is the states and territories that are best placed to determine domestic marketing activities for their own local and regional offerings.
Fourthly, and the final principle, is that we want to work with industry to support the development of tourism infrastructure that can drive demand.
That's why we are refocussing tourism grants away from 'picking winners' and towards stimulating demand-driver infrastructure.
We will work with states and territories to ensure that the benefits of government investment can be multiplied across the industry, not merely accrue to a single operator.
More broadly, our challenge is to give industry the freedom to develop world class tourism experiences, remove barriers to growth and properly leverage investment in infrastructure to drive increased visitation.
Not only are international visitors looking for high quality destinations and high quality experiences, but they also need quality aviation access to our shores.
Tourism Australia partners with 24 Airlines, with 3 recent MoUs with Air China, China Eastern and China Southern greatly assisting with Asian markets.
Air India now flies direct to Melbourne and Sydney, allowing the growing Indian market greater access to our tourism offerings.
Air access and infrastructure needs to grow to service the demand we will generate.
The Government has committed to finalising a decision on a second Sydney Airport site in its first term.
Ultimately, Governments do not create wealth; people do.
It is those of you in this room, many of Australia's most significant tourism, transport and aviation businesses, who create wealth and opportunity.
Our role in Government is to support businesses do what they do best by creating the right operating environment.
I look forward to working closely with the Tourism and Transport Forum to ensure we do create an operating environment that drives strong and sustainable growth.
- Trade Minister's Office: (02) 6277 7420
- DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555