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BFCSA: Could Pauline Hanson poison the swamp? The importance of Tourism for Australia

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Could Pauline Hanson poison the swamp?

Jason Murphy

9 July 2016

 

http://www.news.com.au/travel/australian-holidays/could-pauline-hanson-poison-the-swamp/news-story/db28d437c995c90bb3ac63cc5f682446

WHAT Australia needs — right now — is to be swamped by Asians.

As the price of oil and coal falls, Australia’s economy depends on the export of services, especially tourism.

We can be excellent at tourism. Our country is beautiful, ancient and unique. Our cities are rich and rare. Our animals are so darn cute.

Tourism offers us a rich future. We could become the France of the Southern Hemisphere, raking in billions and billions a year from visitors. But it all depends on people thinking well of us.

 

Pauline Hanson is not helping. The newly-elected Senator from Queensland did plenty damage to our reputation in Asia last time, when she was an MP for the Queensland seat of Oxley, and that is all about to repeat.

 

Chinese tourists bring in big money to Australia — spending $7.7 billion a year. Picture: Bradley Hunter

Chinese tourists bring in big money to Australia — spending $7.7 billion a year. Picture: Bradley HunterSource:News Limited

It’s a potential disaster because Australia has slowly built a good tourist relationship with quite a few countries in Asia. Visitors from those countries are propping up hundreds of thousands of jobs in airlines, land transport, hotels, restaurants and retail across the whole country.

China is the big one. Aussies go there a lot (the blue line on the graph) but Chinese tourists come here in even greater numbers (the red line).

Chinese visitors to Australia in red, Australian visitors to China in Blue.

Chinese visitors to Australia in red, Australian visitors to China in Blue.Source:Supplied

This is extremely good for our economy. But as the next graph shows, tourism can be a fickle beast.

Japanese people used to come to Australia in droves, but their numbers dried up rapidly in the last decade.

 

Japanese visitors to Australia in red, Australian visitors to Japan in Blue.

Japanese visitors to Australia in red, Australian visitors to Japan in Blue.Source:Supplied

Now, they didn’t stop coming because we got a reputation as a bunch of racists (yes, the red line starts falling at around the time Pauline Hanson was first elected, but I reckon that’s a coincidence). They stopped coming because their country’s economy slowly fell apart and their currency got devalued.

The point with tourism is if you stuff it up, visitor numbers drop. You see that in the blue line of Australians visiting Japan. It shows a big dip in 2011 — the Fukushima nuclear power disaster. We stopped going for a while after we thought the country was radioactive.

We soon went back, however, after we realised the danger was localised.

But it turns out that political radioactivity can be worse than the real kind. We see that in the case of Indonesia.

Two decades ago, three times as many Indonesians came to Australia as Chinese. Around the end of the 1990s, that changed. Indonesian tourism took a dive (the red line on the chart).

Indonesian visitors to Australia in red, Australian visitors to Indonesia in Blue.

Indonesian visitors to Australia in red, Australian visitors to Indonesia in Blue.Source:Supplied

Any guesses why? The big problem was our reputation. Not just Pauline Hanson but also splitting off East Timor from Indonesia.

Helping East Timor was a good thing to do. No regrets. But the effects on attitudes to Australia were long-lasting and costly. It’d be a shame to create ill-feeling all over again, and this time without any good reason.

Australia’s attitude to Indonesia is positive. We don’t seem to mind that they are not keen on visiting us. Aussies keep going — especially to Bali. Bali serves as a good reminder that Aussies aren’t actually closed off to Asia. Each month, around five times as many Australians visit South East Asia as the UK, twice as many go to Vietnam as France, etc, etc.

Which is why the whole Pauline Hanson thing is such a disaster for most of us, who have plenty of affection for Asia and Asian people. It only takes nine per cent of the population of Queensland voting for Pauline Hanson in the senate and we all look bad.

Because when people overseas think of Australia, we want them to think of this, not Pauline Hanson. Picture: Tourism Australia

Because when people overseas think of Australia, we want them to think of this, not Pauline Hanson. Picture: Tourism AustraliaSource:Supplied

What are our other potential tourism markets?

• The Kiwis are punching above their weight — on average a Kiwi has visited Australia nine times by their 33d birthday. They can’t do much more.

• Poms come in big numbers but they’re a long way off with plenty of really excellent tourism options on their doorstep.

• We could work on the Americans but they hate flying so far.

 

Asia really is our big market and as it grows richer its potential grows larger. We have to accept it. If Australia’s tourism and other service industries are going to thrive we need a good solid swamping.

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