The visitor economy is a key driver in Australia’s economic transition. Tourism, business travel and events employ nearly one million people and contribute $100 billion to our national economy, and in coming years the sector is projected to grow 4 per cent annually, providing 123,000 additional jobs. But this is only possible if we have the right policies in place to attract visitors to Australia.
Right now Australia is an unnecessarily expensive place for international visitors; we were the second most expensive destination for taxes and charges in a recent study. We have made encouraging progress and last year we welcomed more than one million Chinese visitors, but our competitors are moving faster and getting even better results, particularly by targeting a greater share of the 200 million Chinese who will travel overseas each year by 2020.
Australia must speed up the introduction of e-lodgement of visas for visitors from China, India and Indonesia, with applications available in the languages of those countries. The cost of long-term multiple entry visas ought to be internationally competitive and the process streamlined for skilled-worker visas in sections of our economy that are struggling to find labour. Immigration authorities should work with the business events and convention industry to streamline visa processes for international delegates.
With the right policies in place, we can welcome more international visitors to enjoy the delights that Australia has to offer, boosting jobs and growth in Australian tourism businesses and building closer connections with people from around the world.