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Published on : Friday, December 4, 2015
The Tourism & Transport Forum Australia (TTF) said the opening of a new Australian Visa Application Centre (AVAC) in China’s booming Chengdu was a good step towards improving the attractiveness of Australia as an international tourism destination but there was plenty more still to be done.
The announcement of the new AVAC was made today during the meeting of the Tourism Access Working Group, of which TTF is a member. The group meeting was co-chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss and Tourism Minister Richard Colbeck.
“China is a booming travel market and any steps we can take to attract more Chinese visitors to travel to Australia is good news for jobs and the economy,” said Margy Osmond, TTF CEO.
“The new AVAC in Chengdu is good news for Australia’s Chinese market and follows previous announcements of a pilot for 10-year multiple entry visas for Chinese visitors, providing online lodgement for China and India by the end of 2016 and the roll out of online application forms in Mandarin – a world first.
“The reality is that over 100 million Chinese travelled overseas in the past year and Australia attracted less than one per cent of that massive market to our shores. Chinese tourists spend big when they visit our country – significantly more than visitors from New Zealand, the UK and the USA – this is a market for which we need to be aggressively cultivating and making it easier and cost effective to get to Australia.
“Tourism access is a key factor in Australia’s international visitor competitiveness, and while we have made some strides in recent years, we need to do more to reclaim our competitive advantage and innovation-drive, like we had in the 1990s when we pioneered the ETA.
“We need to be benchmarking ourselves globally against destinations like the US, Canada and Singapore instead of just patting ourselves on the back for launching a new initiative.
“For example, the Australian pilot for 10-year multiple entry visas for Chinese visitors will carry a $1,000 application fee – significantly higher than similar visa products offered by the United States (AU$215), Canada (AU$105) and Singapore (AU$28).
“The Australia’s Passenger Movement Charge (PMC) is now a billion dollar tax hit on our visitor economy. The PMC has become nothing more than a lazy cash grab that grossly outstrips the actual cost of $250 million to facilitate passenger movements at international airports.
“Other countries including Malta, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom are moving to reduce or abolish their PMCs, and Australia should be looking to do the same.
“We need to again start leading the international tourism pack when it comes to visas, passenger access and facilitation – looking at reforms that make us globally competitive and innovative.”
Ms Osmond said the tourism sector was a bright hope for the future of the Australian economy which was a key motivator in TTF joining with industry groups in agribusiness, financial services, IT and international education to form the Future Economy Forum which was announced on Monday.
“The announcement of this Forum is a critical part of making sure that government and the broader community have a clear understanding of the economic importance of the tourism and visitor economy.
“We want to work closely with the Federal Government to develop a Future Economy Strategy to identify the key items for reform that will support growth across these rising industries.”