Tourism needs to be recognised as an important sector in need of investment under the Federal Government’s $42 billion economic stimulus package, according to Northern Rivers Tourism.

The group says that the call for allocation of vital funding is crucial in efforts to offset and recover from a forecasted $1 billion drop in revenue generated by Australia’s tourism industry.

“Tourism is too often dismissed by government as a low-priority sector. The facts are that it is vital to Australia’s economy and builds social capital, especially so in regional areas, and requires investment in infrastructure like any other industry,” says CEO of Northern Rivers Tourism, Russell Mills.

“Tourism generates $1.2 billion dollars in direct revenue for the Northern Rivers. Furthermore, a significant 6.8% of the regional workforce is engaged in this sector.

“The Tourism Forecasting Committee report of December 2008 forecasts a 4.1% drop in international visitation and a 0.9% drop domestically. This translates to more than $1 billion dollars reduction in revenue for Australia, which is almost equivalent to the economic value of tourism to the Northern Rivers region.”
 
A Tourism & Transport Forum survey reveals that almost two-thirds of tourism operators expect to cut jobs as a result of the global economic downturn (227,000 tourism jobs in regional areas).

In partnership with the NSW State Government, local government partners and the industry, Northern Rivers Tourism has put together $276,000 in co-operative marketing programs for 2009 designed to stimulate demand for travel to the Northern Rivers.
 
Northern Rivers Tourism has called on the Federal Tourism Minister to improve supply-side issues and earmark some of the $14.1 billion set aside for funding in roads, transport, energy efficiency and infrastructure to address supply side issues in the Northern Rivers.

“This funding could be used to speed up the plans for upgrading the Pacific Highway, particularly the notorious blackspots between Grafton and Tweeds Heads,” Mr Mills said.

“Tourism operators could also be offered assistance and incentives to ensure their commitment to invest in sustainable tourism initiatives such as carbon usage reporting, energy efficiency measures and better management of waste associated with tourism.

“The resumption of rail services between Murwillumbah and Casino would also provide excellent incentives for both residents and visitors to travel more sustainably.

“The Northern Rivers is also home to many National Parks and reserves such as the Gondwanan Rainforests. These places are a big part of our destination appeal, and appropriate infrastructure is needed to facilitate sustainable nature tourism experiences for international and Australian visitors.”