Legislative Council: Wednesday, September 13, 2023


Tourism and Transport Forum Australia

The Hon. J.S. LEE (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (16:26): I move:

That this council—

1. Recognises that the Tourism and Transport Forum Australia (TTF) is the peak industry group for the Australian tourism, transport and aviation sectors;

2. Acknowledges the impact of TTF as a membership organisation consisting of leading businesses and institutions and its important work to grow industry capacity, resilience and connections since its establishment in 1989; and

3. Congratulates TTF for hosting its inaugural Friends of Tourism event in South Australia on 30 August 2023 by highlighting the important contribution of tourism to our regional, state and national economies and communities.

As the shadow minister for tourism and hospitality, it is a great honour to speak about the tourism industry in parliament today and to recognise the Tourism and Transport Forum Australia as the peak industry group for the Australian tourism, transport and aviation sectors and its important work to grow industry capacity, resilience and connections since its establishment in 1989.

The travel and tourism industry is one of the largest industries in Australia, contributing over $50 billion to GDP in recent years. It is also the country's largest service export industry, accounting for around 10 per cent of total exports. Before the pandemic, approximately 748,000 people were employed directly within the tourism sector, or roughly one in 13 working Australians. This is a figure that has almost doubled over the last decade. By comparison, in the financial year 2019 the mining sector in Australia employed approximately just 50,000 people in total, and had a much slower job growth rate of 0.4 per cent over the next five years.

Prior to COVID, there had been huge growth in Australian tourism from China, India, the Asia-Pacific and other countries that have growing middle classes. The resumption of tourism after the COVID era is good news for thousands of people employed directly in hospitality and tourism, but it is also great news for the whole country. Tourism is a huge and growing industry that provides a lot of direct employment and has been the key driver of major economies. Going forward, the tourism sector will form an even more crucial part of Australia's post-pandemic economic recovery over the coming years.

I also want to take a moment in my contribution today to highlight the impact tourism has on secondary and regional communities. In addition to the significant direct and indirect employment of thousands of people in Australia, tourism also has a positive flow-on impact on other industries, such as agriculture and cultural industries, and on remote and regional communities. Perhaps most obviously, hospitality and tourism are intrinsically connected, with roughly 30 per cent of every international tourist dollar being spent on food and accommodation services in Australia. Roughly 44¢ of every tourist dollar goes to regional areas, making it an important mainstream revenue source for rural communities.

Of course, tourists do not only eat, drink or stay at hotels. They are also increasingly interested in recreational and cultural activities, and their spending supports sports and cultural events, local artists and creative industries. The number of international tourists who are participating in Indigenous cultural activities in Australia, for example, grew by over 40 per cent between 2013 and 2018. In 2017, 47 per cent of those visitors saw an art, craft or cultural display or exhibition, 29 per cent attended a dance or theatre performance, and 14 per cent purchased locally made products, crafts, art and souvenirs to take home.

The love of animals and ecosystems is now a major reason for travelling. This area accounts for 20 to 40 per cent of the global tourism industry. The Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. David Speirs, is passionate about nature-based tourism and he did an amazing job as the Minister for Environment and Water in the Marshall Liberal government in opening up reservoirs and national parks. He continues to work hard to advocate for tourism policies that connect people with nature.

Indeed, Australia's isolation, unique flora and fauna, natural assets and low population have made it a popular destination for international visitors who want to enjoy nature away from the crowds. That desire for natural purity and sparse population has become even more popular among tourists following the pandemic. A 2021 survey across 13 countries involving 20,000 respondents showed that Australia, New Zealand and Canada came in as the top destinations that tourists would like to visit. Not surprisingly, the reasons given by respondents are that countries like Australia, New Zealand and Canada are less populated, nature-based destinations with clean environments.

Having outlined how important our tourism industry is for our regional state and national economies and communities, I would like to highlight the outstanding work of the Tourism and Transport Forum as the peak industry body for the Australian tourism, transport and aviation sectors. These sectors are important to our economy and prosperity. Over the last few years, these sectors have faced several challenges but are bouncing back, demonstrating incredible resilience.

By way of background, TTF was originally known as the tourism passport. It was established as a not-for-profit company in 1989 to provide a strong voice for the tourism and aviation sectors in the wake of Australia's devastating pilot strikes that year, which weakened tourism and business. Further to this, the task force was established to address other issues impacting the industry at the time, including a reduction of the Australian Tourist Commission budget, hotel ownership and the development of Sydney Airport's third runway.

In 2002, a distinguished business leader in the airline industry, Leslie Cassar AM, took on the leadership and expanded TTF's charter to better embrace aviation and transport. The following year, TTF rebranded from tourism task force and became Tourism and Transport Forum Australia to better reflect its direction. Of course, it was very clear and fortuitous that the acronym TTF remained the same, even though its full title has changed.

Recognising the interdependence of tourism, aviation and transport, TTF has six member pillars:

accommodation including advisers, casinos, hotel owners, investors, resort services and apartment sectors;

aviation including airlines, airports and air navigation sectors;

major and business events retail and hospitality including caterers, event suppliers, convention and exhibition centres, restaurants, stadiums and wineries;

professional services including education and technology which incorporates accounting, advisory, consulting, education, legal, public relations, research and technology sectors;

tourism marketing, attractions and travel operators, which include cruise lines, cultural attractions, nature-based tourism, theme parks, tourism marketing organisations and travel operators; and

transport and infrastructure including sectors for buses and coaches, construction firms, ferries, project advisers, rental cars and taxi services.

This is a very broad sector. TTF continues its important work of supporting tourism, aviation and transport businesses to respond to contemporary challenges that these sectors experience by growing their industry capacity, resilience and connections.

Leadership, of course, is fundamental to drive the success of TTF. I would like to place my acknowledgement on the public record to thank the chair, board members, the CEO and the entire TTF team. The TTF chair, the Hon. Bruce Baird's professional career has spanned the Australian Trade Commission service and the New South Wales and federal parliaments.

Bruce was the federal member for Cook for nine years and, during that time, he was chairman of both the trade committee and house Standing Committee on Economics. He previously held roles as the New South Wales minister for transport, tourism and roads and minister for Sydney's Olympic bid. Prior to this, he was Australia's assistant trade commissioner in Germany and trade commissioner in New York. Bruce certainly is serving TTF very well.

In addition to the chair and the board's leadership, TTF is a formidable peak body because it has an industry champion as a chief executive officer in Margy Osmond. Margy assumed the role in 2014 and has been doing an amazing job with passion and tenacity. Margy has extensive experience in policy development, advocacy, politics, membership organisations, management, media and public relations. Before joining TTF, Margy was the inaugural CEO of the Australian National Retailers Association, now the Retail Council, which was established in 2006. Prior to this, Margy was the CEO of the state and Sydney chambers of commerce in New South Wales for five years.

I was delighted to meet with Margy and some of the TTF team members during their recent visit to Adelaide. With the support of the state government and Uber, it was wonderful to join the TTF CEO and executives, government ministers and shadow ministers, other members of parliament, industry stakeholders and representatives for the inaugural TTF Friends of Tourism forum event in Parliament House on 13 August 2023.

The Friends of Tourism event consists of a series of events organised by TTF which aim to provide industry leaders and members of the tourism, transport and aviation industries the opportunity to network and meet with legislators, political leaders and decision-makers in recognising the significant contribution of the tourism and transport industry.

In other states, the Friends of Tourism event is exceedingly popular and highly regarded amongst TTF members due to the relaxed and casual setting of the function. This is a bipartisan-supported event, which both the government and opposition MPs, ministers and shadow ministers participate in and are able to meet lots of industry leaders at the same time.

I truly appreciated the invitation and the opportunity to say a few words, representing the Liberal Party at the Parliament House event, to acknowledge the important contributions of the tourism and transport industry. I also want to take this opportunity to thank Krystal Lees, manager of business events, and the TTF team for their contribution behind the scenes to make the event into a great success. I trust that all my parliamentary colleagues enjoyed the Friends of Tourism event organised by TTF and were grateful to have the opportunity to meet and mingle with business leaders and industry champions who attended the event.

Labour shortages, rising inflation, industrial relations, taxation, travel marketing, infrastructure issues, security and cross-border regulations, visa issues and uncertain economic conditions are some of the challenges the tourism industry is confronted with.

As a policymaker and shadow minister for tourism and hospitality, I am grateful for the important advocacy work by TTF, particularly in calling for positive reforms to address the challenges I listed earlier and to put in measures that will support the growth and success of tourism and transport across Australia, particularly in South Australia. I look forward to working with TTF to argue the case for greater government investment from the state and federal governments in the tourism, aviation and transport sectors to build a stronger visitor economy.

Finally, a big shout-out to all the industry champions, business leaders, operators, employees and personnel of the tourism, transport and aviation sectors for their hard work, passion, resilience and for making enormous contributions to build the Australian tourism brand and generate jobs, social benefits and prosperity for our regions, for our economy and for our community. I commend the motion.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. R.P. Wortley.