The 25 per cent tax increase from $280 to $350 on the Working Holiday Visa (WHV) announced by Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan this week is a major setback for the tourism industry. Expenditure by WHV visitors while they’re in Australia is a great source of revenue for Australia’s economy and, beyond this, they also provide much-needed labour and skills in tourism and other industries.
This additional tax is yet another barrier in a situation where we’re trying to encourage, not dissuade. It compounds the already difficult climate in which the tourism industry is operating. The high Australian dollar, our distance from the rest of the world, the rise of competitors such as Canada and United States, to name a few factors, are already challenging our industry.
These charges will have a particular impact on younger tourist segments, such as backpackers, and will not only reduce tourism expenditure by making Australia a less competitive destination, but may exacerbate labour and skills gaps currently filled by WHV visitors.
The move is particularly damaging to our regional centres which depend on visitors such as these to travel and work in their regions, and is contrary to the Government’s current strategy to attract increased labour, particularly to rural and regional areas.
We’d like to see the WHV scheme made more attractive for visitors through measures like increasing the maximum age from 30 to 35, not making it less appealing through increased charges.
Just because tourists don’t vote does not mean they should be disproportionately targeted by taxation.