Airport Tax Hurting Australian Tourism

A NATIONAL tourism leader has highlighted the struggling Far Northern tourism industry in a plea to the Federal Government to axe a proposed $8 departure tax increase.

Tourism and Transport Forum chief executive John Lee has used a presentation to a parliamentary inquiry to complain the Government was favouring carmakers in Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s Victorian electorate of Altona over tourism operators in Queensland, including the Far North.

He said the increase to $55 from July 1 meant Australia would have the highest charges on short-haul economy passengers of any developed country with the biggest impact on travelling New Zealanders, Australia’s largest source of tourists.

Mr Lee said the increase was a “tipping point” that would convince foreign visitors to holiday elsewhere and would see fewer foreign airlines fly to Australian cities.

“The Passenger Movement Charge, coupled with increased costs for Australian Federal Police officers at airports and the carbon tax, comes at a time when regional tourism is already declining, with its share of visitors and spending falling,” he said.

Mr Lee said regional tourism’s share of international spending had fallen from 23 per cent in 2006 to 18 per cent in 2012.

“We are already seeing declining demand for travel to regional areas and as the mix of international visitors to Australia continues to change, regional dispersal will continue to fall,” he said.

“We have recently seen evidence of declining demand to one of Australia’s most iconic regional destinations, Uluru, with Qantas halving capacity to Ayers Rock airport from both Perth and Cairns, while Jetstar has also reduced services to the Northern Territory.

Cairns Airport has joined rival international airports throughout Australia and tourism bodies in a bid to stop the increase in the departure tax.

Airport chief executive officer Kevin Brown said the airport believed it would discourage holidaymakers visiting the region and have dire consequences for the industry.