The Federal Government's review of a range of visa classifications provides the opportunity to create a better environment for the tourism industry and ensure we keep the "Welcome' mat out for international visitors, Australian Tourism Export Council Managing Director, Felicia Mariani said today.
The reviews look at the Working Holiday Visa, Student Visa and general holiday visas as an important way to ensure Australia stays competitive and continues to be a desirable destination.
"The move towards simplifying our visa categories is one action the Government can take to keep the "Welcome' mat out there and create an environment that makes us more competitive on the global stage," Ms Mariani said.
"There are currently too many roadblocks to Australia as a tourist destination including the rising Australian dollar, increasing fuel surcharges, the Passenger Movement Charge along with the cost and complexity of getting a visa, so we welcome any changes the Government can make that will ease this burden to our visitors."
ATEC provided input into the National Tourism Alliance (NTA) submission on the Strategic Review of Student Visas being undertaken by Michael Knight. The submission argued for changes to the eligibility and conditions of the visa for international students.
"Our industry suffers from labour shortages and relies heavily on both domestic and overseas workers. Many international students are studying tourism and having access to these workers is the key to growth in our industry.
"There is also a great deal of competition for students internationally and Australia needs to ensure its competitiveness by providing procedures and visa charges that are in line with other competitor destinations."
The NTA submission also called for the Federal Government to: Introduce a graduate working visa that would enable international students to gain work experience and/or professional accreditation after completing their studies; Enable and encourage international students to undertake apprenticeships and on-the-job learning during their study; Where work is being counted toward on-the-job learning, the 20 hour maximum should not apply; and That appropriate work experience be counted toward the application of skills for overseas students wishing to achieve trade status.
"International students account for more than 36% of the $17.8 billion international tourists spend in Australia every year.
"On top of this, these students contribute to the economy through employment and provide labour support to the tourism industry that in turn attracts more international expenditure into our economy.
"We simply can't afford to not be competitive in the market for their custom."