Tourism and Transport Forum (TTF) CEO John Lee has apologised to New Zealand for the increase in the passenger movement charge included in last week’s federal budget, which will see Kiwi visitors to Australia fork out an extra NZD$12.4 million in 2012-13.
Speaking at a press conference in Auckland yesterday (May 17), Lee said sorry to New Zealanders on behalf of Australia’s tourism industry for the additional impost, which flies in the face of efforts to increase international visitor numbers.
“The passenger movement charge (PMC) is a tax on tourism which acts as a barrier to entry for international visitors to Australia,” Lee said.
“In that way it’s a form of tariff protection, bordering on protectionism, practices we have been trying to stamp out for many years now.
“It’s hard to reconcile the efforts to grow visitation to Australia and double overnight tourism expenditure by 2020 with the decision to add 17% to the PMC, which is nothing more than a departure tax.
“This increase means a New Zealand family of four who take a holiday to Australia will pay more than NZD$280 just for the privilege of returning home.
“While we have long-standing rivalries in many areas, in this case we should be working together to grow the tourism industries on both sides of the Tasman instead of punishing the 1.2 million Kiwis who travel to Australia every year and the 1.1 million Aussies who go to New Zealand.
“And of course the impost is the same for Australian families heading to New Zealand for a holiday.
“TTF, in partnership with New Zealand’s Tourism Industry Association, has been pushing for streamlined border processing between Australia and New Zealand, with Anzac Express Paths at both ends and ‘mates rates’ to halve the PMC for Kiwis, with a common border as the ideal outcome.
“We don’t believe visitors to Australia should prop up government revenues when they already make a massive contribution to the Australian economy, spending billions of dollars every year and supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs across Australia.
“Imposing additional cost is not the way to grow international visitation in either direction and we simply don’t believe the increase is justified.
“We are concerned the PMC increase will reduce international visitor numbers and have a negative impact on tourism in Australia’s regions, many of which are heavily reliant on tourism for economic activity and employment.
“The PMC was introduced to cover the cost of passenger processing at Australia’s international gateways and massively over-collects on that task, delivering the Australian government around $300 million more each year than it spends on passenger processing.
“The rise – and the future indexation of the PMC to inflation – will give the government an extra $610 million over the next four years – all coming out of the pockets of tourists,” he said.