Call to boost tourism funding as sector prepares to leapfrog manufacturing jobs
Australia's tourism industry is set to overtake manufacturing in terms of the number of jobs created by 2025. Geoff Jones
The tourism industry is set to shake off its "poor cousin" tag after a new report shows it will create more jobs than manufacturing by 2025.
The Tourism and Transport Forum Australia, which commissioned the report, has called on the Turnbull government to boost funding to tourism market and infrastructure in next month's budget to help leverage the sector's fast-growing base.
With China's love of Australia as a tourism destination helping to create a mini-boom in the sector, the report to be released on Thursday showed the number of people employed by the tourism sector is expected to increase from 934,000 in 2015-16 to almost 1.5 million in 2025-26, while tourism spend is expected to grow by $74 billion or 57 per cent to $204 billion over the same period.
Tourism growth of 10 per cent over the past five years is expected to continue and help the sector leapfrog manufacturing (6.7 per cent) to an estimated 7.7 per cent of total employment in Australia, well ahead of financial services (3.5 per cent), agriculture, forestry and fishing (2.3 per cent) and mining (1.8 per cent).
TTF chief executive Margy Osmond said tourism was often seen as the "poor cousin" compared to other industries but the new report showed it was going to be gaining a lot more clout over the next decade.
But she said extra spending on tourism marketing was needed in next month's federal budget to replace the $35 million over four years lost in last year's budget saying it was crucial to the post-resources boom economy.
"Tourism is going to be a massive economic driver. We can't continue to be seen as the cocktail glass with the umbrella on the side, as much as that is a fun part of what we do," Ms Osmond told The Australian Financial Review.
"You can't dress it up - more is more and less is less in this industry. The more money spent on promoting this industry the better the outcome. We always encourage state or federal governments to spend more money on marketing tourism market simply because the return is 15 to 1."
Ms Osmond said state governments were starting to realise strategic issues, such as large infrastructure projects (roads, public transport and airports) were just as important as marketing dollars.
"They need to focus on that in terms of growth for the industry going forward," she said.
But Australia is not alone in pursuing the lucrative tourism dollar, especially the fast-growing middle class in India and China.
"There is enormous potential to grow the leisure market but we are in a very competitive market for the tourism dollar. It's no longer the case of just saying we've got beautiful beaches. We can't just rest on our laurels," Ms Osmond said.
The report found tourism visits are expected to grow by 31 per cent between 2016 and 2026 to 385 million visits, saying visits and spend could be much higher if more competitive goals were set by the industry.
Tourism Australia received $148.3 million in funding in 2017-18, down from $156.8 million the previous year, mostly due to a new foreign exchange treatment applied to the body's funding as well as government efficiency dividends.
Tourism Australia has been on the front foot to lure more international visitors to Australia, launching a $35 million advertising campaign - revolving around a spoof Crocodile Dundee movie at the Super Bowl - at the US market in February.
The tourism body has also set up a $12 million fund to help states bid for business events .
Federal Tourism Minister Steven Ciobo said a record number of visitors were visiting Australia - with spending by international tourists cracking $40 billion for the first time in March. He said the tourism sector was growing faster than the national economy, making up 10 per cent of all Australian exports in 2016-17.
"The Turnbull Coalition government is working to attract even more tourists to Australia, to help create new jobs. Through Tourism Australia, we're providing compelling reasons for people to come holiday in Australia," Mr Ciobo said last month.