Shadow Minister for Tourism and Member for Ballina Don Page has welcomed the announcement that Virgin will base its international operation in Sydney.

“I am pleased to see some positive news at last for the tourism industry in NSW. The industry has been struggling under the State Labor Government since the 2000 Sydney Olympics,” Mr Page said.

“However, I am concerned about what the Government is going to do about keeping Virgin’s international visitors in NSW.

“It’s fantastic that Virgin will be flying 50,000 American tourists into Australia each year, but what is the State Government doing to ensure that they stay in NSW.

“At the moment, too many international visitors arrive in Sydney and then move on to either Queensland or Victoria. We need more international visitors to stay longer in Sydney and to explore regional NSW.

“I hope the Government is not going to now sit on its hands believing that the hard work is done. They need to keep the momentum going and capitalise on this achievement for NSW.

“I ask what strategies they have in place to ensure the extra 50,000 American tourists arriving into Sydney will spend more time in NSW and not immediately fly interstate on discounted domestic flights to Brisbane and Melbourne.”

The NSW Government promotion budget for this State has declined 11% in real terms over the last eight years whilst Victoria has increased their budget by 44% over the same period, Mr Page said.

“While other States like Victoria and Queensland have been experiencing thriving tourism industries at the same time as increasing their tourism marketing budgets, NSW has been decreasing its budget and the result has been declining visitor numbers,” Mr Page said.

“The tourism industry in NSW needs significant initiatives from the Iemma Government. The report commissioned from John O’Neill AO last year to address this issue is still being withheld by the Premier.

“The industry is crying out for this report and its recommendations so that they can begin the enormous task of improving the industry and reversing the declining figures.

“I again call on the State Labor Government to release the O’Neill report into the State’s tourism industry immediately.”