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Minister for Resources and Energy, Minister for Tourism

RET Minister > The Hon Martin Ferguson AM MP

The Hon Martin Ferguson AM MP

13 Jun 2009

AUSTRALIAN TOURISM EXCHANGE Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to my ministerial and parliamentary colleagues - and to our many international guests.

It is a great pleasure to be at ATE again.

This is a very important event on the Australian tourism calendar.

It showcases the best that Australian tourism has to offer.

It also gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to Melbourne.

As many of you will know, the people of Victoria are rebuilding after the devastating bushfires of February, which claimed 173 lives and caused extensive damage to communities only a short distance from here.

As Tourism Minister I was very pleased to announce $5 million in federal funds to support tourism operators throughout regions adjoining bushfire-affected areas.

The people of Victoria - with the support of the Commonwealth Government - are going through the difficult job of recovering from those fires and rebuilding their lives, businesses, and communities.

Of course, we have in recent weeks been forced to deal with the Swine Flu outbreak, which has again reminded our industry how we are susceptible to factors beyond our control.

Your participation at ATE this year is helping Victoria's recovery effort, by demonstrating it is very much business as usual for much of Victoria's tourism industry.

However, these are also tough times for the global industry.

The Global Financial Crisis is causing fewer people to travel.

This is a global phenomenon, affecting all countries.

Neither Australia, nor our tourism industry, is alone.

In Australia, we are confronted with recession in seven of our ten most lucrative tourism markets.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Australia welcomed three per cent fewer international tourists in the first three months of 2009 compared to the same period last year.

Ladies and gentlemen, I recognise that your industry has been impacted by this global recession as much, if not more, than any.

No decline is welcome - but can I say to you that Australia is faring far better than most at this time. For the same period, the:

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· United Kingdom saw arrivals decline 12%

· The USA more than 10%

· Singapore more than 13%

· Japan - a staggering 27%

These are tough times for our industry but I know you are grappling with how to position your companies to employ more people, generate more wealth, and be more competitive.

There has never been a better time for the discussions you will be having this week.

From the Government's perspective, we are through Tourism Australia continuing to spend $90 million every year selling Australia to the world.

This time last year I announced TA's plans for a special campaign based around the release of Baz Luhrmann’s movie ‘Australia’.

That campaign has now been rolled out in 22 markets.

I am pleased to see more than 130 industry partners participating in this campaign which has proven to be a valuable platform from which to sell Australia in a very challenging environment.

The Government is maintaining our presence in key international markets so that Australia is front-of-mind for travellers once growth inevitably returns.

Walking away from these markets is not an option.

Of course, a more significant short-term challenge is to convince more Australians to travel locally.

Domestic tourism contributes around 75 per cent of the Australian tourism sector's business.

I recently launched Tourism Australia's ‘No Leave, No Life’ campaign to prod those Australians who have stockpiled their holiday to use it to take a break in Australia.

Australian workers have more than 123 million days of leave owing - worth more than $33 billion in wages.

I would like to thank the industry for the support it has offered this campaign.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Mr Geoff Buckley - who will leave Tourism Australia at the end of this month - for his effort and leadership.

Geoff has steered Tourism Australia through some challenging periods and has overseen the implementation of some very important campaigns.

I wish him every success in his future endeavours.

Ladies and gentlemen, the current circumstances are the toughest the Australian economy has faced for quite some time but your industry is not facing these challenges alone.

To support jobs and cushion Australia from the full impact of the Global Recession, the Government stepped in with early and decisive action to stimulate our economy.

Our economic stimulus packages have already dramatically increased the money flowing through our economy.

The importance of this cannot be over-stated.

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We have also moved to significantly increase the funding available to the Export Market Development Grants program, from $150 million to $200 million.

And through the National Long Term Tourism Strategy the Government will lay foundations to ensure the tourism industry has the investment, infrastructure, research, and workforce it needs for the future.

This afternoon I will receive the final draft of the Steering Committee's industry input.

The Committee's contribution will help the Government build a more competitive and productive tourism industry and ensure it is ready to make the most of the economic recovery.

Yours is a resilient industry and Australia’s appeal to visitors is enduring.

Having so many of you here at ATE this year reflects this fact.

I wish you well for your endeavours over the coming week and hope that ATE is both productive and profitable for you.

Thank you.

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