Reimagining the Visitor Economy Strategy

  • Speech
25 November 2021

I'd like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet today, and pay my respects to Elders past, present and emerging.

Australians continue to get vaccinated in record numbers and we continue to deliver on our national plan.

Our country is re-opening for business and we are seeing the recovery in our visitor economy. 

International borders are opening, flights are resuming, visa holders and tourists are returning, restaurants and hotels are filling up and people are  starting to book holidays again.

This is wonderful news for Australian tourism and the 660,000 jobs the sector supports.

COVID-19, and the restrictions put in place to manage it, have greatly impacted tourism in Australia.

In 2019, visitor spend hit a record high of $166 billion. It was our fourth largest export and employed one million Australians, directly or indirectly.

Over the past 18 months of the pandemic, spend fell $120 billion compared to 2019, and 11 per cent of jobs in the sector were lost - compared to two per cent across the broader economy.

But the fundamentals of Australian tourism remain strong and that will hold us in good stead as we rebuild for the future.

Australia is still home to unique attractions found nowhere else in the world, like the Great Barrier Reef and Kakadu.

We're home to the world's oldest civilisation, and there is a huge opportunity to embrace and support Indigenous-led tourism.

Our food, art, coffee, wine, music, and theatre is recognised as among the best in the world.

Our tourism operators are passionate, hard-working and innovative.

The Morrison Government has provided significant support to the tourism sector as it recovers from the impact of COVID-19 and state border closures.

More than $20 billion in support – most of it in cash – has flowed to the tourism sector, through JobKeeper, the Cash Flow Boost and targeted sectoral support programs since the start of the pandemic.

We provided $1.2 billion for a tourism and aviation recovery package that included 800,000 half-price airfares to get Australians travelling to key tourism regions.

Our $1 billion COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Fund included tourism specific measures such:

  • $94.6 million for the Supporting Australia's Exhibiting Zoos and Aquariums program
  • $50 Million for the Business Events Grants program ($50 million)
  • We also provided:
  • $258 million for travel agents through the COVID-19 Consumer Travel Support Program.
  • $185 million for Tourism Australia to ramp-up domestic marketing campaigns, including the successful Holiday Here This Year campaign

At the start of this pandemic, Prime Minister Morrison said he wanted to build a bridge to get Australia across this crisis and to the other side.

Well, we have built that bridge, and tourism sector has been supported to get to the other side.

The question is: what happens next?

Our Government is working to not only return our visitor economy to its 2019 levels but to grow the sector even bigger.

Today, I have the pleasure of launching a new draft strategy to reimagine Australia's visitor economy and realise that ambition.

The draft strategy charts a course for the visitor economy over the next decade, from modernisation to diversification to collaboration.

Our vision is to put the tourism, aviation, accommodation, education and hospitality components of the visitor economy back on the path to long-term, sustainable growth, in partnership with you.

This proposed strategy was borne out of extensive consultation by former Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson and his fellow panellists across the industry, over many months.

I'd like to the thank Martin and the panellists, whose work - Reimagining the Visitor Economy - has laid the foundation for the draft THRIVE strategy.

As the strategy makes clear, we need to address the short-term challenges caused by COVID-19 but also the long-term structural trends to ensure Australia's visitor economy rebuilds to be competitive, vibrant, modern, resilient, and sustainable.

And as the strategy also makes clear this will be accomplished by diversifying markets, experiences and destinations, modernising supply side enablers, and collaborating across all stakeholders to achieve success.

The next step is to work with industry, other governments and impacted sectors to refine, improve and enhance this strategy.

Martin and his team have produced an excellent document, but there is always room for improvement.

Our Government wants to hear from as many people as possible to further improve this strategy.

What is clear from both documents, is that the only way that Australia will achieve its goals, is if government at all levels and industry work closely together.

Let me make some concluding remarks.

I have always been an optimist. You don't keep smiling as a Richmond Tigers fan for 37 years in between Premierships without the ability to find the silver lining on every cloud.

So I am very confident about the future for Australian tourism.

There is a huge, pent-up demand among Australians to travel again.

We need to capitalise on that demand to drive domestic tourism growth.

Pre-COVID, Australians spent more per capita on travel than most of our comparator countries, we spent $3,610 per international trip, compared with $293 per domestic trip.

There is a huge opportunity to shift those numbers to support Australian jobs and businesses.

We want more Australians having a holiday in Australia and then telling their mates about how good that holiday was.

When we launched our 800,000 half-priced flights earlier this year, I called on Australians to do their patriotic duty and book a domestic holiday this year.

I'm once again, calling on all Australians to do two things:

  • Roll up your sleeve and get vaccinated to continue advancing our national plan.
  • Book a domestic holiday and on that holiday treat yourself and your family – book the travel experience, have a massage, buy a double scoop of ice cream. Your country needs you.

And I'm calling on our tourism sector to do two things as well:

  • Engage with the consultation process on THRIVE2030, so together, we can produce a unifying strategy that drives our sector forward.
  • Be optimistic, like me, about the strength of our tourism sector and the future of our visitor economy.


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