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Australian tourism calls for government intervention

With the rate of foreign visits to Australia substantially decreasing, the tourism industry is looking to the government for solutions.
15 November 2011
The state of Australian tourism has been described as commentators and industry figures as nearing crisis point this month, after the release of the latest tourism figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

In September, only 432,200 international visitors sought an ETA visa to Australia, indicating a 9 per cent slump over the 12 months from September 2010.

Tourism and Transport Forum chief John Lee publicly decreed the industry in crisis and pointed to a double standard between government assistance for other failing industries and the political support for tourism, calling on the government to intervene.

"If we were the car industry I would have already had 10 ministers ringing me up saying ‘How can we help’," Mr Lee said.

"No one's calling.

"There's this general attitude or malaise in a political sense where people say 'Well, tourism's fun so we can't help them out," he said.

Mr Lee also emphasised the impact of falling tourism numbers on regional economies, claiming that regional communities outside of mining areas - especially those reliant on tourism - are "at the eleventh hour" and "in major shock".

Australian Tourism and Resources Minister Martin Ferguson said there were a number of factors beyond Australia's control that contributed to the low tourism figures in September including the Muslim holiday of Ramadan which he argued saw a temporary decline in visits from Indonesian and Malaysian nationals and the Rugby World Cup which saw a lot of Australia's key tourism market lured to New Zealand.

The tourism industry was also negatively affected by the unprecedented grounding of QANTAS aircraft and continuing poor economic performance in key tourism markets such as Japan and the UK.

Meanwhile, the number of Australians travelling overseas remains strong, with 790,600 jetting off in September, taking advantage of the rising Australian dollar.