By VTIC Chief Executive Dianne Smith
This summer, I went to Sorrento Back Beach. After taking photos of my son in the surf, I sauntered back to my sun shelter to sip a latte on the sand. That evening, I ate Victorian mussels, drank Victorian wine and watched a spectacular sunset, as well as a little tennis on TV. Later that week, I had the ‘real life’ experience at the Australian Open. I questioned: ‘Could I be much more contented?’
I acknowledge that many of you were working furiously while I had this break – rest assured this ends my holiday references – yet I share them with you to highlight the appeal and diversity of our state’s tourism experience.
Just a few highlights of recent and coming weeks include World Cup cricket, the Lion King musical, the Tupperware convention, the 2015 Australian International Airshow at Avalon Airport, Chinese New Year, White Night Melbourne and AIME – and of course, there’s much more…
To quote Deloitte, tourism is a super-growth sector, especially in Victoria.
Despite our ‘liveability’, however, each year since 2011, more Victorians have travelled overseas than holidayed in our own state. The money being lost through our holiday travel trade deficit is more than $7 billion annually – the highest of all states and territories.
You, our members, tell us you want to grow, invest more in products and services, collaborate more and employ more people. At the same time, you tell us about the rising business costs, and in particular that wages are squeezing profits.
Disappointingly, this comes at a time when youth unemployment is 13.1 per cent in Victoria. In the Great Ocean Road region, it’s 18 per cent, the highest of any region in the state.
In this environment – with both unrealised potential and room for improvement in tourism – we need all hands on deck to advance our industry, hence the importance of being a VTIC member.
We can advocate more effectively with your input and, representing a growing and vibrant $20 billion industry employing more than 200,000 people, we have a better chance of being heard and grabbing attention.
If I were a minister, MP or mayor, I would respond better if presented with a clear, unified agenda – which is especially relevant when other sectors are suffering job losses.
Last year, on your behalf we presented a case to the major parties, with a call to action asking them to:
• be more serious about jobs and tourism (tourism jobs are local jobs)
• take a more cohesive ‘whole of government’ policy approach to tourism
• help us realise the growth potential of the tourism industry, in partnership with governments.
What we mean by a partnership approach is industry driving innovation while government provides support through activities like investment facilitation, cooperative marketing, running several attractions (like our museums, zoos, public galleries and parks), and seeding events.
In the past, this approach to tourism has delivered a significant return on investment for the state and it should continue to do so.
In conveying to governments that tourism is a priority for jobs growth, I urge everyone to emphasise these key messages: TOURISM = JOBS and government spending on tourism is an investment, not a subsidy. This is especially important as we head towards the Andrews Government’s first State Budget.