The combination of a dynamic private sector and strong political support of tourism has been instrumental in the way Australia has driven tourism as a motor of socio-economic development. This was the message taken by Taleb Rifai on his first visit as UNWTO secretary-general to Australia.
Speaking at the opening session of the 8th National Conference on Tourism Futures (Brisbane, Australia, July 5-7, 2010), Mr. Rifai commended the recent launch of Australia’s National Long-Term Tourism Strategy, which promotes investment in the industry, facilitates growth, and maximizes employment opportunities. “By bringing tourism into the cabinet, Australia has acknowledged the importance of the sector to the national economy,” said Mr. Rifai. “Australia’s National Long Term Tourism Strategy is a clear recognition of tourism’s capacity to foster economic growth and social development,” he added.
The combined efforts of the Australian public and the private sectors meant that while global tourism declined by 4 percent in 2009, international tourist arrivals to Australia were much in line with volumes of previous years, argued Mr. Rifai. Looking to the future, he encouraged Australia to take further advantage of its geographical proximity to Asia, without loosing its traditional European and North American markets. “As shown in the latest edition of the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, Asia and the Pacific is currently leading the recovery process,” Mr. Rifai told delegates.
Mr. Rifai also met with Martin Ferguson, Minister for Resources, Energy, and Tourism, who expressed his firm belief that tourism is increasingly a central focus of the Australian government’s agenda. “Tourism is very much part of Australia’s future and will be the life blood of many local communities,” said the Minister. “The tourism industry of Australia has contributed AUS$41 billion to the national economy and employs nearly half a million Australians.”
The two parties also discussed recent trends in many countries to increase taxation aimed at reducing public deficits, in particular the UK departure tax for long-haul outbound travelers, which will impact destinations such as Australia and New Zealand. They agreed to work together in order to prevent new trade barriers of this nature to expand.
In addition, Mr. Rifai attended various other meetings including a briefing in Brisbane with industry leaders and senior tourism officials and a Leaders’ Boardroom Luncheon in Sydney attended by senior board members of the Tourism and Transport Forum (TTF). Meeting with private and public representatives he praised Australia’s track record of sustainable and responsible tourism development and discussed issues such as the positioning of tourism in the Green Economy.
June Issue of the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer: http://www.unwto.org/facts/eng/barometer.htm
UNWTO Roadmap for Recovery: http://www.unwto.org/pdf/roadmap_EN.pdf