Australia's Great Barrier Reef is one of the major drivers of international visitors.
Australia's Great Barrier Reef is one of the major drivers of international visitors. Darren Jew

Report: Aggressively target Asians so tourism can flourish

WHILE the latest Australian tourism report card shows strong growth, one industry advocacy group fears the nation could miss out on an extra $25 billion a year without aggressive policy changes at a federal level.

The 2013 State of the Industry report on tourism's contribution to the economy, from Tourism Research Australia, shows tourism expenditure, exports and employment all rising.

The Tourism Industry Potential is the industry's collective goal to generate between $115 billion and $140 billion in overnight visitor expenditure by 2020.

The potential has increased 11.4% to almost $80 billion since 2009.

While domestic and international aviation sectors have achieved 70% and 43% of their respective target, tourism jobs have grown by 18,000 (12%) and a revised supply target of 20,000 rooms has hit just 18%.

Tourism and Transport Forum chief Ken Morrison said the nation was only on track to meet the low end of its 2020 tourism growth target despite the industry's potential, and could miss out on billions of dollars in annual income.

"Australia can be more aggressive in its pursuit of the growing Asian travelling class; our competitors certainly are," he said.

"To do this we need to streamline visas and borders, boost marketing funding, open up the working holiday maker scheme to Asia, and boost aviation access and capacity.

"TTF is also calling for a review of our departure tax, the passenger movement charge, which is the highest in the world for short-haul travel and collects nearly four times more revenue than it costs to provide the passenger processing services it was introduced to pay for."

The Coalition made an election promise to freeze the passenger movement charge during this parliament term but did not respond to APN media requests on Tuesday about the other suggestions.

TRA general manager Dr Leo Jago said international visitor expenditure increased 5.9% to $28.2 billion in the past financial year - about three times higher than the global average rate of growth of 1.8%.

He said the Australian tourism industry had made good progress towards the 2020 targets.

"As the investment phase of Australia's mining boom passes, there is an opportunity to attract more investment into tourism," the report read.

"For this opportunity to be realised, however, it will be important for the tourism industry to enhance its productivity in order to demonstrate the yields necessary to attract investment."

- International visitor expenditure increased 5.9% to $28.2 billion.
- Queensland's total visitor expenditure grew 4.2% while NSW grew 4.5%.
- They were both pipped by a 10.5% rise in Tasmania and 10.6% in the ACT.
- International visitor arrivals grew 4.9% to a record 6.3 million.
- China will account for more than a fifth (22%) of the inbound tourism sector's growth over the period to 2022-23.
- Domestic visitor expenditure increased 3.2% to $69.5 billion.