It is a privilege to be here tonight to celebrate the outstanding contributions and achievements of a wide range of tourism businesses and their members from across the country.
I'd like to thank the Australian Tourism Industry Council for bringing us together and Qantas for sponsoring the event.
It is an opportune time for this year's tourism awards to have made a return to Perth.
It's exciting that tonight we are gathered in the newly opened, state-of-the-art Perth Stadium—with these awards being one of the first major corporate events to be held here.
Perth offers a host of world-class tourism products, exceptional new hotel offerings and updated infrastructure that perfectly compliment the natural beauty of the city—with plenty more in the pipeline.
And just next month, history will be made in this city when Qantas launches its new non-stop Dreamliner Perth to London route, which will connect Australia to Europe like never before.
As Qantas CEO Alan Joyce noted when he announced the flight, in 1947 the "Kangaroo Route" from Australia to London took 55 hours in the air, four days and nine stops.
After taking off from Sydney, the Kangaroo Route of 1947 first stopped in Darwin to refuel before going on to Singapore, where it stayed overnight since there was no night flying.
Now it will take just 17 hours from Perth non-stop and is also substantially more affordable.
In 1947, a return ticket cost 585 pounds which was the equivalent to 85 times the average weekly wage in Australia, or half the cost of a suburban house.
The impact of this route on jobs and tourism will no doubt be felt here in Perth and Western Australia more broadly.
This is just one great example of how advances in technology will continue to impact the way the world travels.
Australia's tourism industry continues to be one of the key pillars of our economy with growth at record levels.
We have witnessed the third year in a row where tourism grew faster than the national economy—making it one of our country's largest service exports and accounting for ten per cent of Australia's total exports.
Tourism is now a $135.5 billion industry that provides direct employment for almost 600,000 Australians and contributes $55 billion to Australia's GDP.
Importantly, the impact of this growth is far reaching, playing an important role in the economic growth of Australia's regional centres.
Indeed, 43 cents of every tourist dollar is spent in regional Australia.
International arrivals and spend are also at record levels.
In the last few months alone, we've seen international visitor spend in Australia surpass $41 billion, with spend from Chinese tourists alone hitting $10 billion.
Australia is welcoming a record number of visitors, who are staying a record number of nights and spending a record amount of money.
This is a great position to be in and we must continue to build on this success.
However, we must not stand still.
As new technology in the Dreamliner and Qantas has allowed for significant improvements in air travel around the world, the tourism sector must continue to look for new and improved ways to attract tourists to Australia, and particularly regional areas.
Looking to the future
Effective tourism marketing will continue to play a vital role in achieving our tourism goals.
Tourism Australia's latest campaign, launched at the American Super Bowl, initially appeared as a trailer for a new Crocodile Dundee movie, featuring some of Australia's best-known celebrities and showcases our country in a new, modern light.
The original 1986 Crocodile Dundee movie was a huge success and helped to put Australia on the map for many Americans.
Tourism Australia's innovative and unique campaign has put Australia on the radar of millions of Americans and with the help of 20 campaign partners, will continue to promote Australia in the US.
The US is critically important to Australian tourism. It ranks second in terms of expenditure, and third in terms of visitor arrivals.
While the Dundee campaign is still very much in its early stages, feedback from industry both here and in the US has been extremely positive.
China will also undoubtedly remain a key market for Australian tourism.
Off the back of a successful China Australia year of Tourism, annual Chinese visitor numbers have climbed nationally by more than 12 per cent to 1.35 million, only a few 900 shy of our neighbours and long-time largest arrivals market of New Zealand (ABS Dec '17).
As early as next month, China will likely overtake New Zealand and become our largest market in terms of visitation.
Spend by Chinese visitors recently surpassed $10 billion, now equating to one in every four tourism dollars spent in Australia.
And in Western Australia, for example, we've seen Chinese visitor spend only just recently surpass spend by visitors from the UK for the first time—making it the most valuable market here.
Regional Australia tourism
While tourism to Australia's city centres is excelling, we need to be striving to encourage tourists to also visit our wonderful regional areas.
So many of the finalists here tonight are fantastic examples of regional and rural tourism at its finest. We need more operators to follow their lead to encourage tourists to stay longer, spend more and hence allow for continued improvement in our regional tourism offerings.
The Turnbull Coalition Government has provided record funding to Tourism Australia, secured the landmark 'open capacity' aviation agreement with China, invested in new tourism infrastructure, and made significant reform to Australia's visa system.
However it is the continued efforts of all of you here tonight, and the thousands of tourism operators and businesses that can't be here tonight, that is driving the record success of our tourism industry.
I assure you that this Government will continue to get the policy settings right for our vibrant tourism industry to continue to grow and prosper.
Finally, I'd like to take the chance to once again extend my congratulations to all of tonight's finalists and award winners—thank you for your hard work and dedication to making Australia a highly desired tourism destination.
- Minister's office: (02) 6277 4482
- DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555