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Tourism joy over lower dollar, but industry laments no new money in budget

Wednesday, 15 May 2013 | By Yolanda Redrup

The Australian tourism industry is rebounding as more international visitors are making the voyage overseas and those figures are set to improve with the dollar now heading below parity.


The dollar opened under 99 cents for the first time in over a year this morning, with economists expecting the dollar will continue to fall as the American economy improves.


However, the industry has also lamented the fact it received no new funding in last night's budget.


Tourism and Transport Forum spokesman Rowan Barker told SmartCompany it "would have been nice to see some extra dollars" dedicated to tourism in the budget as industry competition increases.


"You've got to have the message out there, as the competition is increasing greatly. The US has never had a national tourism campaign until two years ago. President Obama is currently spending millions of dollars on their campaign and so is New Zealand."


"We need to invest more in our own strategy. When people start travelling, you need to be the place they're thinking about going to and ensure brand awareness is high.


For the year to March, despite the Australian dollar remaining above parity with the Unites States, the percentage growth of overseas visitors was higher than outbound travellers, for the first time since late 2003, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics figures.


Tourism and Transport Forum spokesman Rowan Barker told SmartCompany the tourism industry is bouncing back and will be further buoyed by a lower Australian dollar.


"Contrary to what you may think, it's doing quite well and spending is up, but spending would be up even further with a lower Australian dollar."


"It's been an interesting turnaround considering the recent state of the dollar. We're hoping that as the dollar falls, international tourists will change their spending habits. When the dollar is high, it doesn't change your budget, but it does change the buying power of foreign visitors when they're here," he says.


Despite the importance Australians place on the value of the dollar, Barker says foreigners aren't as tuned in.


"We hope the spending patterns will moderate, but I don't know if international visitors are as acutely aware of it as we are. For many, Australia is an aspirational destination which they've always wanted to travel to."


ABS statistics show in March the international arrival trend estimates grew by 5% compared to March 2012 and seasonally adjusted figures recorded an increase by 2.3% in the number of short-term arrivals compared with February 2013.


The trend growth in international arrivals outgrew Australian overseas departures by 1.5% and the number of Australians going on foreign adventures decreased in January and February this year.


The number of Chinese visitors to Australia grew around 17%, the largest of any country, while the Chinese make up the second largest number of foreign tourists. China is outranked by New Zealand and the UK, US and Japan follow close behind.


IBISWorld research from February this year indicates the GFC and economic turmoil in Europe and North America resulted in lower numbers of visitors from these countries, but a growth of visitors from China and India offset these declines.


Compared to the Australian dollar, Barker says global market conditions have the greatest impact on tourism.


Along with the forecasted decline in Australia's popularity, Barker says the industry is struggling to find workers, with approximately 36,000 job vacancies and by 2015 this is predicted to increase to 51,000.


"There are jobs in every electorate, but this is a strength and a weakness. There are a range of steps which we intend to take over the next few years to find workers, but it's partly because of where the jobs are located.


"There are a lot of tourism businesses looking at employing people through 457 visas, after exhausting local avenues, and also seasonal guest workers from countries such as Indonesia."


This story first appeared on SmartCompany