Australian Tourism Summit, Los Angeles

  • Speech, check against delivery

In 1967, when the Australian Tourism Commission (now Tourism Australia) first opened its doors, Australia received 220,000 international visitors who spent $74 million annually.

Fifty years on, in 2017, over eight million international visitors spent over $41 billion in Australia.

Tourism has become a vital component of Australia's economic wellbeing.

The latest tourism numbers that track the industry's performance show that the tourism industry continues to grow faster than the national economy and has done so for the past three years.

Tourism is one of Australia's largest service exports, making up 10 per cent of all Australian exports in 2016-17.

Directly employing almost 600,000 people, the tourism industry workforce is growing at a rate of three per cent whereas the rest of the nation's workforce is averaging a 1.3 per cent increase.

To truly understand the value of the tourism industry it is important to note that tourism creates a greater downstream economic effect than mining, agriculture or financial services.

For every dollar directly earned by tourism, another 81 cents are generated in other parts of the economy.

And the importance of tourism will only increase as we start to move away from being heavily reliant on the resources sector and more focused on service exports.

The North America market is a very important component of Australia's transition to a services based economy.

For the year ending September 2017, 152,000 Canadian visitors spent $740 million in Australia.

And during the same period, Australia welcomed over 700,000 US visitors - 10 per cent increase year on year - who spent $3.75 billion in Australia.

These numbers make the US our third largest market for visitation and the second largest for spend.

Whilst other markets are growing at similar levels, their growth is off a much smaller base.

The sheer size of the US market means there is incredible potential for Australia here.

Australia seems as though it is a far away destination, but aviation connectivity is the best it's ever been, and it is our job to show Americans how easy it is to get there.

In addition, a favourable exchange rate and highly competitive air fares make this the perfect time for Americans to visit Australia - as well as the perfect time for us to capitalise on the American opportunity.

According to the World Tourism Organisation, in 2016 there were 1 billion global travellers and Australia received less than 1 per cent of those travellers.

But when you consider that the majority of these people are travelling within their local regions, and may indeed be first time travellers, Australia needs to focus on people prepared to travel out of their region.

In order to make sure Australia continues to reap the rewards that the North American market has to offer, we need to grow Australia's global market share in a sustainable way.

Currently, the USA is forecast to be worth between $4.5 and $5.5 billion by 2020.

That is, if we just continue to do what we've already been doing, then we will see a good result.

However, with a dedicated focus and increased investment in this market we could see the US reach $6 billion by 2020, a great result.

Consumer demand research shows that awareness and intention to visit Australia amongst Americans is improving, however conversion is still low.

Americans perceive Australia as a highly desirable destination and Australia is well equipped to meet the needs of American consumers.

We have what they want in abundance – incredible nature based and aquatic experiences as well as a world class food and wine offering.

Australia is a very diverse destination, and this can seem overwhelming to new visitors. So, we need to make it easy for people to digest and see the vast array of different activities they can do here.

We are lucky to be able to genuinely say that we have something for everyone.

In a highly competitive global market, Australia needs to continue to innovate and be creative to get cut through with our target audiences so that we start to see those conversion rates improve.

Increasing awareness of Australia and driving demand for our unique country has been the job of Tourism Australia and its predecessor, the Australian Tourism Commission, for the past fifty years.

Back in 1967, the Australian Tourism Commission invested in only a few international markets. Of course, the US was one of those.

The iconic campaign which first brought Australia to the limelight in America was Come and Say G'Day with Paul Hogan and that immortal 'slip a shrimp on the barbie' line.

Needless to say, it was a huge success.

Tourism Australia's most recent campaigns showcasing Australia's stunning aquatic and coastal experiences, our world class food and wine and unique nature and wildlife continue to drive demand for Australia.

The aquatic and coastal campaign was launched in New York two years ago by Australia's global ambassador, Chris Hemsworth. A sign of how important this market is to Australia.

Tourism Australia's social media channels are another excellent example of a cost effective marketing tool.

Tourism Australia is a world leader amongst tourism bodies around the world when it comes to its social media following.

The number of followers of Tourism Australia's social media accounts has grown by more than 900,000 in the last 12 months – keeping Australia ahead of rival travel destinations like the US, the UK and New Zealand.

Tourism Australia has an outstanding Aussie Specialist Program that equips our frontline travel sellers with the knowledge and skills to best sell Australia to their customers.

There are 23 Aussie Specialist Coordinators and trainers in 15 of our key markets and an innovative online platform for sellers to improve their skills.

In the first two years of launching the Aussie Specialist Program, Tourism Australia has more than 45,000 registered agents across 80 countries. The program has also won awards in the US, UK and Germany.

The Turnbull Coalition Government recognises the important contribution tourism makes to Australia's economy and in particular the important contribution of the North American market.

Which is why this year, we have included the Summit as part of the G'Day USA program.

The G'Day USA program is the Australian Government's most important public diplomacy program promoting Australia's capabilities in the US.

Tourism features heavily in this year's G'Day program with the Summit, South by Southwest and a business events showcase in New York all on the agenda for 2018.

Tourism is a crucial part of G'Day USA because when people visit Australia and have a good time, they leave as passionate advocates who tell Australia's story to the world.

The Turnbull Government believes in putting its money where its mouth is and that is why we have provided record funding for Tourism Australia.

It is also why we continue to make policy changes to improve aviation connectivity and attract foreign investment so we have enough supply to meet the demand.

In the aviation space, we are actively focusing on increasing connectivity with Australia.

In December 2016, we secured a landmark 'open capacity' aviation agreement with our most valuable tourism market – China.

Australia has seen a 6 per cent increase in aviation capacity over the past year amounting to a total of 26 million seats into Australia.

In March this year, Qantas will launch their new Perth to London route, which will be one of the longest flights in the world. Fifty years ago, this would have been unimaginable.

This is a great technological feat and will open up numerous opportunities for the North American market.

I am pleased to say that there are also 20,000 potential new hotel rooms in the investment pipeline currently.

In other policy developments, in November last year, I along with my colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, launched the Foreign Policy White Paper.

This is the first comprehensive review of Australia's international engagement for 14 years.

This paper sets up the framework for Australia's international engagement into the future and will be an important focus for the Australian Government.

Of course, the tourism industry has long had a forward-thinking strategy that set a clear and defined goal for Australia with the Tourism 2020 Strategy.

Under the Tourism 2020 Strategy we set out to achieve between $115 and $140 billion in overnight expenditure annually by 2020, and I'm proud to say that we are on track to reach that goal.

As we are now just two years out from 2020, we are starting to look beyond and think about what comes next.

Be assured that I will work closely with the tourism industry both in Australia and in our key markets, like the US and Canada, to develop this next strategy.

Finally, before I wrap up, I want to say a big thank you to all of you here today.

Regardless of the campaigns, policy and budget changes, we could not promote Australia without you.

We rely on our passionate and dedicated tourism industry to represent us on a day to day basis, particularly here in one of our most important markets.

Not just represent us, but also to sell Australia and promote all the fantastic and unique experiences we have to offer.

So again, on behalf of the Australian Government, thank you very much and please know your contribution and hard work is highly valued.

Thank you for your time today. I see there are some very interesting sessions coming up and I trust you will enjoy them and find today valuable.

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