Senator Richard Colbeck Australian Tourism Minister
Senator Richard Colbeck, Australia’s new Tourism Minister

New Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s decision to once more have a standalone Tourism Minister has been welcomed by the nation’s leading industry bodies.

The Accommodation Association of Australia (AAoA) CEO, Richard Munro, said the announcement of the Senator Richard Colbeck-led portfolio by Turnbull will position the industry for further growth.

He said the return of a specific tourism portfolio and that it has been linked with international education is a welcome move, according to the accommodation industry.

“The accommodation industry is pleased that Australia has a specific Minister who is responsible for tourism again,” Munro said.

“It sends a message to our industry that Mr Turnbull recognises the value of tourism to the economy and we look forward to the contribution of Senator the Hon Richard Colbeck in the new role.

“The accommodation industry has confidence that the Senator will build on the strong foundations that Hon Andrew Robb AO MP has put in place over the past two years,” he said.

In relation to having tourism and international education in the same portfolio, the Accommodation Association described it is an excellent strategic move.

“It is important that the Federal Government plays a lead role in promoting Australia as a safe and hospitable destination for international students,” Munro said.

“Education is one of our largest and most important sources of international visitors, and is a segment which is set to grow even further with the right public policy settings.

“The new ministerial arrangements will help promote stronger economic returns within the accommodation industry,” he said.

The appointment of Senator Richard Colbeck as a dedicated Minister for Tourism in the new Malcolm Turnbull-led Federal Government is an encouraging sign that the value and importance of tourism is being recognised, according to the Tourism Accommodation Australia (TAA).

Chair of TAA, and the last dedicated Federal Tourism Minister, Martin Ferguson, said that while tourism had been well served at Cabinet level in the Abbott Government by Trade Minister Andrew Robb, the industry deserved its own voice in Government.

“While we would have preferred tourism to have a seat at the Cabinet table, we are confident that Senator Colbeck will represent tourism strongly,” Ferguson said.

“With Senator Colbeck coming from Tasmania, he will know the importance of tourism and its potential to create jobs and generate income.

“We will be calling on him to address a number of major issues that require urgent attention to drive future demand and ensure the industry is both competitive and responsive to the changing market conditions.

“For the accommodation sector that means ensuring workplace conditions are conducive to maximising the potential of businesses and growing employment. With the largest expansion of hotels in Australia for over two decades, there needs to be a clampdown on unregulated commercial accommodation, and there needs to be a continued priority for Government to invest in tourism-related infrastructure, promotion and events to drive future international and domestic demand.

“The importance of the industry will require the continued support of Andrew Robb at cabinet level, as trade relations – particularly the Free Trade Agreements – will have profound implications for the growth of tourism from Asia. It will be essential for tourism to be aligned to future trade liberalisation,” Ferguson said.

While the return of the tourism portfolio to the federal government ministry under new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been welcomed by the Tourism and Transport Forum Australia (TTF), the organisation’s CEO, Margy Osmond, has cautioned that the decision to leave the Tourism Minister, Sen Colbeck, out of cabinet means tourism will continue to need strong support and advocacy from senior cabinet ministers Julie Bishop and Andrew Robb.

“Tourism is a critical part of the economy, an industry with nearly 1 million employees and which generates $100 billion worth of economic activity, so it must be seen at all times in a whole-of-government context. I believe the overall thrust of this new ministry provides our sector with strong representation across the board,” Osmond said.

“I would like to warmly welcome Sen Colbeck to the tourism industry, an area with which I would expect him to have an innate affinity being from Tasmania, a state which continues to innovate and lead in this vital economic portfolio.

“Tourism will sit underneath the cabinet cluster of Foreign Affairs with Ms Bishop and Trade and Investment with Mr Robb, senior ministers who have a strong grasp of the issues facing our industry both domestically and internationally. The appointment to the role of Treasurer of Scott Morrison, who has a strong background in tourism and who understands its importance as a driver of the economy and a generator of jobs, will also be a positive development for our industry.

“I would also like to congratulate Peter Dutton on retaining the Immigration and Border Control cabinet post in which we look forward to continuing to work closely with him on matters of visitor visa reform and passenger processing.

“TTF also congratulates Warren Truss, who has been re-confirmed as Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development. TTF is excited that the new Prime Minister has expressed the view that he is prepared to consider a role for Canberra in funding public transport, which is vital for national productivity.

“In a similar sense, TTF supports the appointment of Jamie Briggs as Minister for Cities and the Built Environment. Our cities must be productive and liveable if we expect travellers from around the globe to come here and spend money,” Osmond said.

James Wilkinson

Editor-In-Chief, Hotel Management