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Speech to Industry and Government Working Together Through Tourism 2020, Gold Coast



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Minister for Tourism Martin Ferguson

Industry and Government Working Together Through Tourism 2020

28 March 2012

Jupiters Casino, Gold Coast

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Thank you for the opportunity to open the 2012 CRVA National Convention.

I'm reliably told the Caravan, RV and Accommodation Industry "Loves this Country".

And as a critical part of Australia’s $35 billion tourism industry the love is not all one way.

Many Australians have fond memories of family holidays in caravans by the sea and camping in the Australian bush.

These types of holidays allow people to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life, and get back to nature, to fresh air and often vast open spaces.

To get off the beaten track and experience parts of Australia that would otherwise be missed when flying from capital city to capital city.

While the timeless enjoyment of a good Australian caravan and camping holiday remains - the quality, service standards and choices available today in caravan and camping parks has come a long way.

Gone are the days of parking the old Viscount caravan on any riverbank—the facilities and options available at many of Australia’s holiday and caravan parks today, would make them unrecognisable to those of the 1950’s or even 1980s.

It is the hard work and commitment to quality and choice of products that will ensure that the caravan and camping, and indeed the broader tourism industry, can continue to grow in a fiercely competitive tourism market.

The pressures of global competition and market shocks such as the GFC—not to mention the impact of floods, bushfires and cyclones—have made for a tough operating environment.

The industry is undergoing a structural transformation.

A challenge often brought to my attention by operators in the tourism industry is that of having a high Australian dollar.

In what is a highly emotive debate, it is important to ensure the facts are laid out.

The age of cheap energy is over—that is the harsh reality.

Every time we fill up—particularly when you're heading out on a long road trip, or pulling into a remote petrol station, or even deciding to travel at peak times like Easter—the reality is staring you in the face at the bowser.

Australian fuel prices are driven by a range of factors including international prices for crude oil which are currently high due to strong demand in Asia.

And while it might seem cold comfort at times—the fact is the high value of the Australia dollar is actually somewhat cushioning the impact of high international oil prices.

Indeed, if the Australian dollar was at the average rate for the ten years to 2011 - $0.79 against the US dollar—instead of $1.04, then our petrol would be approximately 27.9 cents per litre more than the current price.

For the average traveller—not even for those such as yourselves making the most of our wide open spaces—the high Australian dollar is saving around a $400 on yearly fuel costs.

But of course the strength of the Australian dollar and cheap airfares also make overseas travel extremely attractive—it is, with so much, a double-edged sword.

And this Government is not leaving the tourism industry to handle it alone—in fact we aim to double overnight tourism expenditure by 2020.

Because tourism matters to the Australian economy.

Caravan and camping snapshot

According to recent studies by Tourism Research Australia, caravan or camping accommodation visitors account for 12.5 per cent of total domestic tourism expenditure.

In fact according to the second Caravanning and Camping in Australia snapshot that I am proud to release today - in 2011, a total of 45.3 million nights were spent in this type of accommodation— representing around ten per cent of all visitor nights in Australia.

Travelling Aussies accounted for the majority of these nights—around 41 million.

Caravan and camping visitors also spent $7 billion while travelling in Australia—with $5.4 billion from Australians enjoying Australia.

And of course 90 percent of that was in regional Australia.

It is well worth studying the snapshot which provides a very useful profile of the visitors that stayed in caravan or camping accommodation in 2011.

I would also like to acknowledge the support and assistance of the Caravan, RV and Accommodation Industry of Australia with this research.

It is through such work, and improving the quality of our tourism product to match the expectations of our visitors, that Australia will achieve its tourism potential.

Although Tourism Australia spends around $130 million per year to support marketing, marketing alone will not be enough.

It is our quality and unique experiences that set us apart as a tourism destination.

Improving quality is a key aim of the Tourism 2020 Strategy—a partnership between Government and industry - including the CRVA—to address long term structural issues in the tourism sector.

T-QUAL accreditation

Nearly a year ago, I launched the T-QUAL Accreditation Program, the first national accreditation framework for tourism.

Members who meet the standards get endorsement with our first national symbol of tourism quality, the T-QUAL Tick.

The Tick provides a visible sign to consumers that a tourism business is committed to the customer-quality promise.

I would like to congratulate CRVA on becoming T-QUAL endorsed in September last year.

CRVA members accredited to display the T-QUAL Tick can differentiate themselves as being quality operators who meet the expectations of discerning customers.

The scheme is steadily expanding to embrace tourism products as diverse as hotel chains, airlines and restaurants.

The T-QUAL Tick tour, hosted by renowned chef Matt Moran, is underway showcasing a range of accredited products to boost customer awareness of tourism quality accreditation.

Included in Matt’s tour will be Brisbane Holiday Village - an award winning T-QUAL Tick caravan park in Eight Mile Plains, right here in Queensland.

T-QUAL Grants

Another way in which the Government is working with industry to improve quality and supply is through the T-QUAL Grants program.

This program offers grants of up to $100,000 matched dollar-for-dollar by the tourism businesses.

It aims to encourage investment in tourism experiences, anything from eco-cabins and farm stays to wine trails and interactive displays.

If just one project offers more reasons to visit, the local economy surrounding it will benefit.

A number of holiday and caravan parks have been awarded T-QUAL Grants.

In the 2011 round of this program caravan and camping parks were offered funding to the value of $753,000.

For example, Midland Caravan Park in WA received $100,000 towards the installation of ensuite bathrooms and a shared kitchen at the Park.

BIG4 Atherton Woodlands and BIG4 Crystal Cascades Holiday Park received T-QUAL grants to help fund construction of eco friendly accommodation units.

Refreshing and building new facilities such as these gives more people more reasons to visit regional areas - not just once, but again and again.

The 2012 round of T-QUAL Grants is currently open for applications, and will close on 19 April.

I encourage members of the CRVA to apply for these grants to help get your ideas to improve your businesses and regions off the ground.

CRVA’s support for the caravans and camping category of the National Tourism Awards is a further example of the commitment to quality in the sector.

Labour and skills programs

But grants to improve and expand facilities is only one element.

We all know good quality people with the right skills is what can really shape a holiday.

Getting that staff is harder to do when you start with a labour shortage.

The tourism industry employs half a million Australians, many in regional areas—but has around 36,000 job vacancies and by 2015 it will require an additional 56,000 people.

The Government’s National Workforce Development Fund will help to address some of these shortages, with $5 million of the fund dedicated to training for tourism businesses.

I note that a number of tourism organisations working through Service Skills Australia, including the CRVA, were successful applicants in the previous grant round to train staff critical to the operation of your businesses.

More training places will be funded out of the current round, and I encourage tourism organisations to make the most of the funding for training offered to the industry.

In addition, just last week, the Government announced major reforms to Vocational Education and Training.

With State and Territory agreement, the Government is offering to train an additional 375,000 Australians over the next five years.

For the first time, all working age Australians will have access to a government subsidised training place.

Funding of up to $7,800 will be available for students' first Certificate III qualification and interest free loans, similar to the HECS scheme for university students, will be available for the study of diplomas and advanced diplomas.

This will remove the financial barriers for many Australians to undertake training they need to get a good job.

This means more people earning qualifications in caravan and camping grounds management, hospitality, events management, retail travel sales, hotel management and cooking—key skills for the tourism industry.

Seasonal Worker Program

The Government will also carry out a three-year trial to bring workers from the Pacific and East Timor to support the accommodation sector.

The Seasonal Worker Program Tourism trial will be open to accommodation providers in the tourism industry in seasonal areas.

This follows the decision to support a small-scale pilot of the program for tourism operators in Broome where seasonal workers have already commenced work.

Details on the Seasonal Worker Program will be announced in coming months, with workers due to begin arriving from July this year.

Only by addressing these sorts of structural issues in product quality, innovation and skills can we ensure that the tourism industry can go from strength to strength

Conclusion

In closing, I would like to congratulate the organisers of the NSW Caravan Camping RV and Holiday Supershow on their recent Gold in the Festivals and Events Category at the recent Qantas Tourism Awards hosted by the National Tourism Alliance in Cairns.

This is exactly the example of the quality we need to reach if we are to meet the Tourism 2020 targets.

I thank the CRVA and you the members for you work with us under the Tourism 2020 Strategy and wish this year’s conference every success.

Thank you.