Tourism and the 2019 Australian Budget
The Australian government’s 2019 budget contains some positive benefits for Australian tourism and tourism businesses. However, Australian tourism industry leaders, while welcoming a number of budget initiatives believe that government support for tourism falls short of matching tourism’s significant $110 billion contribution to Australia’s economy.
Margy Osmond CEO of the Tourism and Transport Forum, John Hart, Executive Chair of the Australian Chamber of Commerce -Tourism and Evan Hall, Chair of the Australian Tourism Industry Council all welcomed the $50 million dollar pledge to upgrade iconic Australian sites. They also welcomed the significant 216 million dollar commitment to upgrade the iconic Kakadu National Park which was announced well before the budget.
There was also strong support for extra funding to promote working holiday tourism which benefits many tourism and agricultural businesses in rural and regional Australia. However, most tourism leaders expressed disappointment that Tourism Australia, which has effectively marketed strong growth in inbound tourism is being promised a very modest 10% growth in its budget over the period 2019-2024. Tourism Australia operates in a highly competitive global market and effective promotion of Australia to meet TA’s ambitious 2030 growth targets for inbound tourism cannot be done on a shoestring.
Tourism will indirectly benefit from infrastructure upgrades announced in the budget. The plans to develop high speed rail links betwen Melbourne -Geelong, Sydney-Wollongong, Sydney-Newcastle and Brisbane- Gold Coast will have an indirect benefit for tourism but are clearly pitched to commuters. The grand plan of a high speed rail linking Brisbane and Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra is nowhere to be seen in this budget.
Trade and Tourism Minister, Simon Birmingham pointed out that tourism businesses, over 95% of which are small businesses, will benefit from the tax write offs on assets announced in the budget. It is also notable that short-term work visas will continue to be offered for temporary workers from the Pacific. Many of these find work in the hospitality sector which continues to experience a skills shortage.
Increased support for vocational training and employer subsidies to take on apprentices will indirectly benefit many tourism businesses.
It was notable that departure taxes from Australian were not increased. The budget’s primary weakness is the absence of a big picture plan for tourism development in Australia. As one of the most significant and sustainable sectors in the national economy tourism needs far more than a series of bandaid approaches.
Of course the biggest unanswered question is whether Australia’s current federal government will be around to implement its budget proposals. Australia is set to have a national election in May 2019 and Scott Morrison’s government is going to struggle to hold power.