09 November 2012

Australian Tourism Export Council to combat working holiday visa price hike

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Around 30 of the most prominent youth and backpacker industry bodies have joined forces with the Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) to write a letter to the Treasurer Wayne Swan to argue against the proposed price increase of the working holiday visa.

Australia visa

The Australian Tourism Export Council is planning to combat the proposed price increase for the Australian working holiday visa.

As part of the Mid-year Economic and Fiscal Outlook detailed by Mr Swan last month, the cost of a number of Australia visa streams was increased. As of 1 January, 2013, the cost of a working holiday visa will rise from AU$280 (£180) to AU$360 (£232), causing some employers to worry about the impact on the availability of backpacker workers.

And now ATEC will write to Mr Swan arguing against the change, claiming the visa uptake rate has already fallen in Europe and predicting falling revenue in rural areas.

"While uptake of the visa has held, the industry has seen clear signs of a contraction in this important sector, with youth travellers now spending less time in Australia and travelling far less to regional parts of the country. We cannot afford to give these travellers yet another reason to reduce their spending – or, worse yet, decide not to visit at all," said Peter Ovenden, an ATEC board member.

"The WHV has long been one of the great draw cards for young people visiting Australia giving them the opportunity to work in order to subsidise an extended Australian holiday and this has given us a real competitive advantage against our global rivals for the youth sector.
 
“Analysis undertaken by ATEC this year identified that backpackers, and working holiday makers in particular, spend considerably more than the average international visitor, staying around 8 months and spending over $13,000 each."

The Australia visa price increases are an attempt to return the Australian federal budget to surplus but Mr Ovenden says adjusting the working holiday program, instead of just charging more for it, would reap even greater benefits.

"Minor adjustments to the program such as extending the ‘regional working’ category, reducing financial requirements and allowing multiple visa opportunities, which ATEC has also advocated for, could increase the spend[ing] of these visitors by around $700 million over a 10-year period," said Mr Ovenden.

Mr Ovenden is due to speak at the Adventure and Backpacker Industry Conference in Sydney this week when he will launch the campaign to cancel the fee increase.

"We must speak with a united and strong voice in our opposition to this latest tax burden being applied.  We encourage all members of the tourism industry to petition the Treasurer to rethink this increase and recognise the important role tourism plays in contributing to Australia's economy."


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