By Dianne Smith, Chief Executive
In the lead-up to Victoria Tourism Week next week, it is fitting to reflect on the value of our industry. As industry members, we know the many benefits tourism generates, however they are not universally appreciated. We therefore have a responsibility to adequately explain the contribution tourism makes to Victoria’s wellbeing – economically, socially and culturally.
The recent discussion about private investment in Victoria’s national parks, in which tourism operators were lumped under the descriptor the ‘white shoe brigade’, highlights the need for all of us, operators and industry groups such as VTIC, to be committed advocates of the value of tourism and the quality of the experiences we offer.
I thought we’d moved away from the term ‘white shoe brigade’ years ago. It is an outdated descriptor, more than 20 years old, that refers to a particular place and time – development in Queensland during the Bjelke-Petersen era. It has no place in current discussions about the modern Victorian tourism industry.
To add salt to this wound, one of our federal MPs distributed a postcard to residents with a photo of a monstrous, inappropriately-designed building on the edge of the Great Ocean Road sea cliffs, captioned “the result of 99-year leases”.
This too is alarmist and inaccurate. The tourism industry has an economic interest not to compromise the very attractions on which its business appeal is based. Why would we kill the goose that lays the golden eggs? Also, many nature-based tourism operators have built their business models and strategies around sustainability. Natural and cultural values underpin these developments and operators are committed to ensuring they are respected and upheld.
Victoria Tourism Week, from 2-7 September, presents us with an opportunity to remind Victorians of the benefits of their tourism industry. We can also encourage young people to consider careers in tourism, as well as reminding operators and governments to keep innovating and investing in our product.
In the world’s changing economy, tourism is one of Australia’s most important competitive advantages, offering significant employment capacity and huge growth potential. In Victoria, ours is a $19 billion industry and growing, destined to employ 310,000 people by 2020.
At the recent Tourism and Events Excellence Conference (TEE), which we co-hosted in Melbourne, Victorian Minister for Tourism and Major Events, the Hon Louise Asher MP, launched Victoria’s 2020 Tourism Strategy, in which many other opportunities and projections are presented. You can view the strategy here.
At the conference we also heard from the federal Shadow Minister for Tourism, the Hon Bob Baldwin MP, who more recently announced that a Coalition Government would implement an easing of visa restrictions if elected on 7 September. VTIC will work with whichever side is triumphant at the election to ensure that our industry can realise its full potential.
I recently met with one of Australia’s great tourism advocates, Tennis Australia CEO Steve Wood, who has just announced his departure after eight years at the helm of the organisation. We congratulate and thank Steve for his significant contribution to growing the Australian Open, one of Victoria’s hallmark events. I recall him saying “Tourism – it’s the ultimate industry”.
I was delighted to participate in the round of VTIC policy committee meetings this past month. These sessions enable key topics to be raised and information shared about how to support our industry growth. Hot topics this month included the rollout of the myki ticketing system throughout Victoria, the importance and challenge of welcoming Chinese visitors, business confidence, visitor numbers, and attracting increased public and private investment in our visitor experiences. Election priorities were high on the agenda and we note that several Victorian tourism projects have been earmarked for support during the federal campaign, including an announcement for Puffing Billy from Labor and another for the Great Ocean Road by the Coalition.
In the lead-up to polling day, we strongly encourage you to participate in some of the Victoria Tourism Week activities next week (to learn more about the program, and to download a copy, click here). More importantly, tell everyone about the value of tourism and events. This is what keeps us strong and supports the future of our wonderful industry.