09 July 2008

QLD Tourism Minister calls for no age limit on working holiday visa

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Queensland Tourism Minister Desley Boyle announced today Australian tourism needs a major policy shift to combat lagging tourism numbers, rather than relying on "band-aid" solutions provided by marketing campaigns.

Ms Boyle said that while advertising campaigns can entice new and existing tourism markets to apply for a visa for Australia, there will always be accessibility issues holding back Australian tourism.  The Australian Government needs to seriously reconsider its aviation, visa, and tourism policies so that it can remain a competitive player in global tourism. 

"We are effectively reducing the size of our potential market by refusing cabotage to international airlines or making innovative changes like removed age restrictions on working holiday visas," she added.

According to the Minister, the major factor affecting Australian tourism numbers is the isolation of the country from the rest of the world.  "Long haul tourists need to be really motivated to book a holiday and the fact that many Americans, for example, only get two weeks annual leave makes it even more difficult.  Markets such as North America could be further opened for Australia if working holiday visa age restrictions were relaxed. 

"If you could offer the growing numbers of baby boomers with time on their hands working visas I am sure we would see a big increase in tourists coming to Queensland, and they would also assist with regional Queensland’s labour shortage."

At the moment, young people from selected countries aged between 18 and 30 years can apply for an Australian working holiday visa, allowing them to work and travel throughout Australia for 12 months.

Ms Boyle also argues Australia needs to step up its approach to "green travel" and tourism sustainability by creating a national green accreditation of all tourism operations.

Figures released from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show Australia’s tourism numbers are lagging behind the global rate.  Travellers on an Australian visa grew by only 0.8 per cent, while the rest of the world’s tourism increased by five percent. However, Ms Boyle maintains that, "Through my recent meetings with Asian airlines and tourism wholesalers it was very clear the demand for Queensland and Australian holidays remains strong but this demand is being choked by accessibility issues."

Article by Jessica Bird, Australian Visa Bureau.

The Australian Visa Bureau offers online applications for the Australian Working Holiday Visa.

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