Australia’s hotel industry has praised outgoing Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson.
The Minister for Tourism, Energy and Resources announced he was stepping down from his post last Friday (Mar 22), a day after the leadership spill involving Prime Minister Julia Gillard which failed to eventuate.
Ferguson has been a vocal supporter of former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and in his press conference he said he would have voted for the Queenslander if the vote had taken place.
He was one of several senior ministers to have resigned or been demoted on Friday alongside Human Services Minister, Kim Carr, and Regional Development Minister, Simon Crean.
Western Australian MP Gary Gray has taken over Ferguson’s portfolio, while Senator Don Farrell has been appointed as the Minister Assisting on Tourism.
Soon after Ferguson’s announcement, hotel and tourism associations and lobby groups came out in praise of the Victorian’s five years in the job.
Tourism Accommodation Australia’s Managing Director Rodger Powell said Ferguson did a stellar job in the role.
“Martin Ferguson has a deep understanding of our industry and did his very best to support our needs within a government that largely ignored him,” he told HM.
“He should be applauded for his work to develop the independence of the Tourism Australia Board and for allowing Board and Management to get on with what has become an excellent job.
“One of the only members of government to recognise that penalties on top of penalties are damaging our sector, his passion for serving all Australians make him a stand-out politician.”
The Accommodation Association of Australia’s CEO, Richard Munro, said Ferguson “has been an outstanding Minister for Tourism”.
“He set a road-map for the industry with the development of the National Long-Term Tourism Strategy which is currently in the implementation phase,” he said.
“Martin’s management of Tourism Australia also needs to be applauded, leaving the agency at ‘arm’s length’ to concentrate on its job of promoting Australia as an international and domestic tourism destination.
“Martin will also be a friend of our industry and we wish him well in politics and beyond,” Munro said.
ATEC also congratulated Ferguson on his contribution to the industry.
“Minister Ferguson has made an enormous contribution to the Australian tourism industry over the past 5 years and the industry has benefited greatly from his focus, dedication and vision,” said ATEC Managing Director, Felicia Mariani.
“In that time Ferguson has helped to bring the various state and federal entities together in order to focus our industry on a long term strategy to overcome some of the issues that have held it back in the past.
“He has been a tremendous support and advocate for the industry, but most importantly he has set a vision and goal for his department and his agency and then let them get on with the job.
“Tourism gained a strong friend and supporter with his appointment to the portfolio which finally brought a significant voice for tourism to the cabinet table. Deservedly, he has earned a great deal of influence and respect amongst his cabinet colleagues,” she said.
ATEC Chairman, John King, said Mr Ferguson would be sorely missed as a leading supporter of the tourism industry.
He said ATEC had enjoyed a close and productive working relationship with Ferguson since he was first appointed Shadow Minister for Tourism and had developed the highest respect for his commitment to, and understanding of, the issues of tourism.
“He will be particularly remembered for his passion and drive for the development of the important Chinese tourism market to Australia and for the greater involvement and employment of Indigenous people in tourism,” King said.
Munro has welcomed the new appointments, saying it was important that there is a strong public policy focus on tourism between now and the federal election.
“Mr Gray and Senator Farrell are two experienced politicians which is critical as the Federal Government embarks on the process of developing tourism policies it will take to the election,” he said.
“It is pleasing that the Prime Minister has seen fit to reinstate the role of Minister Assisting on Tourism, given our industry is one of the largest and most important in Australia, directly employing more than half a million people.
“We look forward to seeing how the Government proposes to advance the interests of our industry between now and [the Federal election in] September.”