The incoming Australian Government will be without a dedicated tourism minister for the first time in over four decades, following Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbott’s announcement of his new cabinet this week (Sep 16).
Andrew Robb has been appointed the Minister for Trade and Investment, under which responsibility for Tourism Australia will lie, while domestic tourism will be under the control of Ian Macfarlane in his Minister for Industry portfolio.
However, neither will carry the Tourism Minister title held by Labor predecessors Gary Gray and Martin Ferguson.
Former Shadow Tourism Minister Bob Baldwin has been appointed the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry and will assist Macfarlane with domestic tourism.
In his time as shadow minister, Baldwin was vocal in backing the industry and pushed through a number of Coalition policies to benefit the industry.
The leading industry associations have had a mixed reaction to the news.
When contacted by HM, Tourism Accommodation Australia would not comment on the Cabinet announcement, while the Accommodation Association of Australia said it was too soon to discuss the new positions.
“Until the Ministers are sworn in and administrative arrangements are place, it is too premature to make public comment about the announcement of the new federal ministry,” Accommodation Association of Australia’s CEO, Richard Munro told HM.
The Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) slammed the decision of the Abbott Government to not have a Tourism Minister appointed.
ATEC Managing Director, Felicia Mariani, said the tourism industry “must be recognised for its AUD$28 billion contribution to the national economy”.
“This is the first time in more than 40 years that Australia has not had a tourism Minister and our members, and the industry more broadly, are concerned by this significant omission,” she said.
“What will be important into the future is the Abbott Government’s commitment to strengthening the tourism industry and its valuable contribution, and we are confident this can be done well through the new Minister for Trade and Investment, Andrew Robb.
“As one of Australia’s most successful and enduring export industries, we must be recognised and fully engaged in the new Minister’s agenda.
“While we welcome this whole of Government approach, we need to have a clearly defined Minister who has a responsibility for the tourism industry on a day-to-day basis,” she said.
Mariani, however, said ATEC “welcomed the Government’s policy announcement placing greater focus on engaging export tourism as a strong contributor to Australia’s international trade”.
“The tourism industry has for far too long been overlooked as a significant contributor to Australia’s export sector, and this new alignment with trade and investment finally acknowledges our place at this important table,” she said.
“Tourism is the largest contributor to the country’s export performance in the services sector and the 6th largest overall within the export industries.
“As the only national industry association devoted to the development of Australia’s $28 billion export tourism industry, Minister Robb must be fully engaged with ATEC in order to understand the needs and complexities of the thousands of businesses who comprise this critical industry.
“ATEC calls on Minister Robb to engage the export tourism sector in his new Ministerial Advisory Council on Trade and Investment.”
Mariani thanked Baldwin for his extensive engagement with the tourism industry.
“Baldwin has been an incredible champion for the issues confronting the tourism industry and this was substantiated by the way that he worked to shape the excellent Coalition Tourism Policy that was launched prior to the election.
“He has been a very available and highly visible Shadow Minister and we wish him well in his new portfolio responsibilities,” she said.
The Tourism and Transport Forum (TTF) welcomed the new cabinet with open arms, saying it was “excited about the potential benefits that arise from aligning international tourism with foreign affairs and trade”.
TTF Chief Executive Ken Morrison said aligning international tourism with foreign affairs and trade “makes good sense”.
“TTF is pleased to see Tourism Australia positioned under the umbrella of foreign affairs and trade,” he said.
“This is a sensible arrangement which will ensure that tourism is considered in the decision making around Australia’s foreign policy and acknowledges the gateway role that tourism plays in helping foster international relationships for business, education and investment.
“Economic diplomacy of this type will help to drive synergies in the promotion of Australia as an international destination, leveraging the activities of other Australian agencies in key source markets.
“We congratulate Andrew Robb on his appointment as Minister for Trade and Investment and look forward to working with him to grow international visitation to Australia.
“Tourism is an economic development strategy for Australia, driving economic activity in every part of the country and providing jobs and business opportunities.
“While the mining investment boom may be waning, the people boom is just beginning and Australia is well-positioned to capitalise on growing demand in Asia for international travel.
“We believe the new portfolio arrangements will help Australia maximise the potential of this unprecedented opportunity.
“Thanks must go to Parliamentary Secretary for Industry Bob Baldwin, who has done the hard yards over the past three years as Shadow Minister for Tourism.”