Australia’s visa policies are inhibiting tourism potential and seeing it lose out on high-spending Asian visitors, according to a report released today by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).

The organisation’s 2014 Annual Economic Impact Report for Australia shows the economic contribution of Australia’s travel a tourism grew by just 1.7 per cent in 2013.

WTTC president and CEO, David Scowsill said the Australian Federal Government needs to take action to ensure the sector is sustained in the long term.

“The Australian Government can’t afford to rest on its laurels and needs to take decisive action to grow travel and tourism’s economic slice.

“There is so much competition to receive visitors from fast-growing economies in Asia, like China and India, but Australia’s current visa policies mean it is missing out on these lucrative markets to competitors with more forward-thinking policies.

“The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is working on co-operating together on a single visa in the near future. Even now, ASEAN countries are actively introducing changes like visa-on-arrival in Malaysia for Indians, the Thai-Cambodian Single Visa, extended stays in Thailand for citizens of G7 and visa exemption for medical tourists in Thailand. Australia is in danger of falling behind and missing out on visitors, tourism receipts and jobs,” he said.

In 2014, WTTC predicts that Australia’s travel and tourism will grow by 2.7 per cent.

“Australia has to make it so much easier for high spending middle class Asian travellers to visit or they will go elsewhere,” Mr Scowsill said.

“E-visas need to be brought in, application forms need to be in more languages and there needs to be more collaboration on multiple year, multiple entry and joint and shared visas. All of these measures are simple to make but will bring big rewards to the economy.

“Australia has incredible assets and has the potential to continue to be a fantastic travel and tourism performer. But, if it doesn’t significantly change its policies, it will find itself playing a bit part, rather than the leading role it should be, on the worldwide travel and tourism stage.”

For more information, and to read the 2014 Economic Impact Report in full, visit: www.wttc.org/research

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