In 2011 Asia has dominated Australia’s international tourism arrivals.
Despite the weaknesses in the economies of some of our traditional markets and the impact of natural disasters, visitor arrivals to Australia in the year to December 2011 were relatively stable compared to 2010, down only 0.2 per cent.
Arrivals increased in 11 of Australia’s top 20 markets in 2012.
Arrivals from China increased 19.4 per cent in 2011 to 542,000 arrivals, making it Australia’s third largest inbound market behind New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Increases were also seen from Singapore and Malaysia, up 3.4 per cent and 1.8 per cent respectively.
Our aspirational, middle-class Chinese visitors are cashed up and love shopping, fine food and gambling AND the rest of Asia is also in holiday mode. Visitors from India last year were up 6.8 per cent, Indonesia 13.2 per cent and Singapore 3.4 per cent.
Roger Grant, head of the regional tourism body at Geelong says:
“It is one of the most amazing sights in Australia and yet the only facility there for tourists is little more than a big toilet block.”
For many reasons right across the country our tourism product does not give international visitors what they expect. Our product does not compete. Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson says:
“I think the industry accepts now that marketing is not enough…we have to improve on supply and performance, chase investment, facilitate planning approvals, train workers, have aviation access…”
Unfortunately for the industry, responsibility for all of the above ‘is spread messily across three tiers of government’ and,
“Unlike the high-profile struggles of the car industry and manufacturers like Alcoa, the troubles of the tourism industry tend to fly under the radar,” says James Packer.
He believes both industry and government should be more aggressive and work together to remove barriers which will allow us to compete with other countries.
The thinking seems to be that there should be no great complacency, no ‘she’ll be right mate’.
The Hawke-Keating and Howard governments made it clear that nobody, no sector, is immune from economic reform – their message was that ‘we are all in this together’.
“When the Mitsubishi factory closed its doors in Adelaide, workers had been given a long period of notice and were assisted in the processes of retraining and job search. Both the state and federal governments were involved. Many workers remained in the area and a high proportion secured alternative employment, including the setting up of businesses. We need a political leader to state the obvious, just as Paul Keating did all those years ago – “People have found better jobs. I mean, did we ever hurt anybody liberating them from the car assembly line?”
Economics writer David Uren observes that:
“The jobs market is doing a remarkable job of managing the structural changes working their way through the economy.
New jobs are being created in industries such as health and personal services to replace the jobs being lost in manufacturing and tourism.
There are winners and losers, but nationally the pool of unemployed labour has shown barely a ripple since the global financial crisis passed through the economy in 2008-09.”
A sense of where we might go together PLUS the all-important political will to do something about it – across all levels of government?