Tourism? But Australia’s got mining…
Scotty’s Beach House owner Boyd Scott argues Australia’s tourism industry is sinking into irrelevance while the country’s decision-makers are blinded by the mining boom.
“And don`t forget to say “G`day” to `em: you wouldn`t want to make a liar of me, now, would you?” So ended an amiable Paul Hogan Tourism Australia ad, where he told us Aussies how to treat the hordes of international tourists that he`d lured over here with his famous “Shrimp on the barbie” ad campaign.
Following on from his runaway success with the feature film Crocodile Dundee, Hoges was seen as the perfect tourism ambassador, who could bring`em here and then educate us on how to look after them. TA was right and tourism became the country`s major new foreign export industry.
Twenty-five years later, it`s hard to believe our governments were ever very excited with an industry that employs millions, both directly and indirectly, improves international relationships, broadens the Australian peoples` horizons and brings vital foreign coin into our country (and spreads it to areas so remote that they would cease to exist without it).
How have we gone from the second largest national export earner to hardly rating a mention following such natural disasters as the Brisbane floods and Cyclone Yasi?
The answer to this mystery is that our nation has been swept up in the mining boom, a foreign exchange-earning juggernaut which has gathered pace since the awakening of China and India as industrial giants and brought huge wealth to certain states, with all governments reaping the benefits through increased excise, taxation and royalties.
This coincided with a decision to pursue a more sophisticated campaign with more culturally-orientated ads and, unfortunately, a much quieter political voice from our peak tourism marketing and promotional bodies. This decision to deviate from the core attractions of Australia, and the tone of the ads, has so far not succeeded in capturing the excitement and increased visitation of the heady days of the Hoges campaign.
With this eclipsing of all other export earners by the mining industry has come a loss of clarity in tourism policy and a definite shift of focus away from this sector. A front page report in a recent Cairns Post lamenting the closure of the Bruce Highway (linking Brisbane with Cairns) over 400 times in the last two years, through flooding, mentions the effect this has and continues to have on trucking firms and local citizens, without a single word on its dreadful impact on tourism!
The fact our currency is experiencing an unprecedented high on currency markets (bloody mining boom!) only exacerbates our woes. Until we can convince our politicians AND our peak bodies that tourism is an industry worth supporting and get them reading from the same bible, we face the prospect of drifting into an irrelevance limbo that may take years to recover from.