In a week dominated by concerns of a soft economy, lower housing approvals and a continuing balance of trade deficit, tourism stands out as a powerhouse, with two sets of key figures highlighting its vital economic contribution, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry National Tourism Council said recently.
Visitor numbers for June, released on Thursday by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, show continuing strong trend growth in international visitors.
In the year to June there was a 30 per cent increase in visitors from South Korea, a 29 per cent increase from Japan, a 22 per cent increase from Indonesia and a 20 per cent increase from China. In the 2015/16 financial year 1.14 million Chinese visited Australia, 206,000 more than a year earlier.
Over a decade short-term visitor arrivals have risen 44 per cent to 7.85 million for 2015/16, including a nearly four-fold increase in the number of Chinese visitors.
Balance of trade figures for June, released by the ABS on Tuesday, show total export income from tourism-related services totalled $43.4 billion in 2015/16 (on original figures), surpassing coal, coke and briquettes, and rural goods as a contributor to our balance of trade.
Steve Whan, Manager of the Australian Chamber National Tourism Council, said: “It is clear tourism is as important as mining, agriculture and financial services for generating future jobs and economic activity in Australia.
“We are pleased to see Trade, Tourism and Investment Minister Steve Ciobo highlight tourism in his discussions with his Indonesian counterpart over the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, for which the Australian Chamber is jointly coordinating formal input from business.
“But the Government needs to act on its rhetoric through increasing the prominence of tourism in decision-making. Tourism’s importance can be demonstrated through a speedy resolution of the backpacker tax uncertainty and more globally competitive visas. These are achievable if they are prioritised by the Government.
“Australia is already experiencing a decline in the number of working holidaymakers. Department of Immigration and Border Protection figures show the number of applications fell to 231,390 in 2014/15, down 13 percent over two years.
“This figure will continue to fall if the backpacker tax comes in, damaging Australia’s agriculture and hospitality sectors, especially in regional communities.