Community News

Image: NSW Government Budget Statement 2019-20.

International tourism slump hits NSW, but not the valley?

Geoff Helisma |

A week after Clarence Valley Council (CVC) said the valley had experienced a “22 per cent increase in international, domestic and day visitors from 2017 to 2018”, the NSW Labor party has highlighted that the NSW budget papers reveal a slightly different story.

On page 11 of chapter 2, the budget paper shows that international visitation has fallen by about nine per cent since mid 2017.

“Growth in student enrolments has slowed modestly;” the budget paper states, “a more acute slump can be seen in overseas visitor arrivals, where growth has slowed.

“This slowdown in international students and visitors is broad-based across most countries, but with a material slowdown from China.”

Labor has honed in on the NSW Government’s $35 million cut to Destination NSW’s funding (from $176 million to $141 million) – Destination NSW compiled the figures cited by CVC – branding it an “act of sabotage that will hit regional tourism operators badly just as a tourism slump hits”.

Shadow tourism minister, Jenny Aitchison, said in a media release that the “government should be helping the tourism industry during this downturn not pulling funding from it”.

“NSW Treasury is warning of a looming risk to the economy posed by a slowdown in the Chinese visitor market,” she said.

“This is especially bad news when it comes to our goal of getting tourists to travel to regional NSW.”

The budget paper puts it this way in the ‘Risk to economic outlook’ section: “Adding to the trade risks is the possibility that China may seek to head-off a ballooning current account deficit by curtailing imports such as outbound tourism and international education – a development that could have significant implications for the New South Wales economy.

“However, China still has many other options for addressing its external balance.

“Additionally, any unexpected policy stimulus designed to revitalise growth in the Chinese economy, will help bolster demand for commodity exports, and support national income growth.”

The Australian Tourism Export Council, Accor Hotels Pacific boss Simon McGrath and Tourism Accommodation Australia NSW chief executive Michael Johnson are among tourism leaders who have publically condemned the cut.

Last week the Independent published a story about CVC celebrating ‘Record tourism numbers in the Clarence’.

Many of the claims were unsubstantiated, with no supporting data included in CVC’s media release.

The Independent sought clarification and asked several questions, including: What did CVC spend on marketing tourism in the 2018 calendar year, how was that money spent and on what?

What economic improvements were observed regarding the “charging of the economy”, as stated in the media release?

How many businesses opened and closed in the Clarence Valley during that period?

Please provide the Clarence Valley LGA-specific data that illustrate how “jobs and investment” have been “generated and driven” as “tourists chose to visit the Clarence Valley”?

What allowances were made, regarding the high number of temporary residents in the valley working on major infrastructure projects, to support the statements made by economic development manager Elizabeth Fairweather, destination management officer Ms Gumb and the mayor, Jim Simmons?

The council’s general manager, Ashley Lindsay, answered with the following statement: “Council’s outlay on tourism promotion in the 2018/19 financial year will be provided in the audited annual accounts.

“Council will not provide details of where money was spent as it could provide an advantage to competitors.”