Welcome everyone. Thank you for your cooperation and your willingness, particularly the sector, to come and have a conversation when we need to on a range of issues, but there has been a very, very good structured conversation and I have certainly appreciated that.

You’re right to identify the importance of this sector in dealing with the transition in the economy but also the prospective employment growth and we’ve had a few conversations now about the importance of this industry more broadly but also changing the perception of the industry in the context of how it’s seen as an employment or a job prospect.

You only have to move around the sector a bit, interact with the people who are working within it and get to know them to understand what a terrific industry it is and the fact that there are real career choices and career paths available for people who want to make this their livelihood - we need to turn around the perception that exists within the community that’s it not.

I remember talking to Andrew Robb who’d been having a chat to a young guy who was running a small business in the hospitality sector and he was turning over something like $4 million a year. Now, a small to medium business, obviously doing okay, but he was only doing that while looking for a real job and that’s the perception that we need to try and change.

Even in the last 24 hours with our interactions with the hotel that we’re staying in, the desire to provide a quality service, the knowledge that’s available to provide service to customers, to the guests at the hotel, has been fantastic.

Now there’s some variation in that if you travel around the country and we see that a bit because we do get around a bit. But it’s not just about the front of house, it’s about all of the other things that go into the industry, accounting for all the other services that service the industry are important parts of a career in this industry.

When you look at it more broadly, not just directly from people associated, people working in this sector around the country, it provides support for a lot more and, of course, we know from the research that we’ve done that there remains skill shortages in this sector – 38,000 currently and up to 120,000 within a decade.

So we need to turn the perception around. The fact that you’re running the expo indicates that you are genuinely looking at managing that side but I think across the industry, working with those who are advising people into careers and making sure that we’ve got that really good understanding right down through that career path advice pipeline about the demand in the industry but also what the industry can actually offer.

So that’s a job for us all and that goes to the report [Tourism and Hospitality Careers Report] that you mentioned before that we are releasing today that provides some indicators of the inhibitors, if you like, what people perceive to be negative about careers in the industry but importantly what they value.

So understanding what the issues that you need to deal with are to turn the perception around, but also you advising of those things that are valued by people who are working in the industry and use those to help promote the industry to continue to grow and meet its employment demands.

Because you’ve probably heard me say it a dozen times if that few, we’re projected to grow at 4.1 per cent per annum for the next decade and we’re one of the key drivers of growth. So managing the supply side across all elements of the industry is going to be very important for us if we maintain the quality of our offering and meet the demand that’s going to be coming for us.

With the number of people coming out of China going from 120 million last year to 200 million by 2020 there’s a bit of demand coming and we still have strong growth out of our traditional markets. So we need to make sure that we properly deal with that.

So we’re releasing the report that Martin [Ferguson] mentioned, done by Colmar Brunton. We ran 22 focus groups across the country, a number of in-depth interviews, including in small hospitality businesses, and so a number of key drivers behind the negative perceptions.

So this is what the concerns were - a lack of clearly defined career pathways, and I know that varies across the sector as some of you have very good career pathways designed and aligned between industry training and employer needs, and I see that in the other side of my portfolio in the international education sector.

No clear linkages between formal industry training and job outcomes; how low awareness of the employment potential is seen, particularly the sectors growth trajectory and career options and that’s of concern.

A perceived lack of professionalism across the sector; lots of entry level jobs in the sector but few careers after that, I think, floats back up into the first one which I mentioned.

But there are some positives and the first one is fairly obvious and that’s the portability of industry skills and there are opportunities that come up in that, which leads to the second point, industry’s capacity to facilitate travel and there are plenty of people who enjoy that.

An ability to interact with interesting and a diverse range of people; fun and social nature of the work; the potential to work flexible hours, which does lead us to another point that, hopefully, will get resolved very soon after the election.

So I mean they’re the key elements of this and we’ll make the report available to you. I think it’s timely that we put it out as part of the Expo that you’re having here now and there will be continued engagement with the sector through Austrade as we start to work through these things and continue to promote what is clearly a very positive career choice for people.

It’s going to be one of those job sources for people right across our economy, metropolitan and regional centres, bringing on 14 per cent of GDP in regional Australia versus a smaller proportion in the cities but still important, so it makes an important contribution across the economy.

So we look forward to continuing to work with you through Austrade to balance these sorts of things out to continue to develop connections and I think that’s a goal for us all to continue working on.

We need to continue to make this a strong part of the economy with tourism growing at 4.1 per cent and the rest of the economy growing at, or struggling to hit 3 per cent, I think that’s a clear demonstration of why the Treasury, Deloittes and a number of others have defined tourism as one of the five key super-growth sectors and we need to make sure that we make every post a winner.

So thanks Martin and I’m happy to have a Q&A around the table.

Media enquiries

  • Minister's Office: (03) 6424 5960
  • DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555