Tourism industry fear backpacker numbers will dry up

35 minutes ago

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Tourism operators worry that the tax changes will deter backpackers.Tourism operators worry that the tax changes will deter backpackers.

MORE than eight in 10 Tasmanian tourism operators believe a backpacker tax will reduce visitor numbers to their regions, new figures show.

A survey, conducted last week by the Tourism Industry Council Tasmania, has found that 83 per cent of operators expect the backpacker tax to negatively effect the number of tourists to their region and more than 60 per cent expect the tax to have a negative affect on their own business.

The findings from a survey of 10 per cent of the state’s tourism operators, comes as representatives from the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture and Water Resources arrive in Hobart today for face-to-face consultations with representatives from the horticulture, tourism and agricultural sector.

Under proposed Federal Government rules, foreigners on working holidays will no longer have access to a tax-free threshold of almost $20,000 and will be forced to pay at least 32.5 per cent tax on income from the first dollar earned.

TICT chief executive Luke Martin told the Mercury that backpackers contributed to Tasmania’s visitor economy “not only as customers but as employees”.

“Regional areas of Tasmania including the West and East Coasts are particularly dependent on the short-term labour provided by working holiday visa holders,” he said.

His sentiments were echoed by Primary Industries Minster Jeremy Rockliff, who said the horticulture and agriculture sectors could also be affected.

“Tasmanian perennial horticultural enterprises such as cherries and berry fruits are in an expansion phase,” Mr Rockliff said.

“As an example, one industry grower alone exports to 20 countries and employs a permanent workforce of 20 staff.

“This workforce swells to 600 from December to February during the peak harvest time for cherries. That’s why we have expressed our concerns to the Federal Government not to risk the competit-iveness of Tasmania’s vital horticulture, agriculture and tourism sectors.”

Huon Valley apple and pear grower Mark Duggan said backpackers were “vital” for producers and for the state’s tourism sector.

“From hostels through to caravan parks and just in general … the money value that they bring to the Huon Valley is just incredible,” he said.

Mr Duggan said he was “very, very concerned” about the impact a backpacker tax would have.

“At this stage there are a lot of farmers not sure whether to put a crop in the ground or not because they might not get the backpackers to harvest the crop,” he said.

Mr Martin said negative publicity about the backpacker tax had already had an impact on visitor numbers.

“The latest International Visitor Survey released this week revealed backpacker arrivals in Australia fell by 7 per cent in the past 12 months, in striking contrast to overall visitor arrivals to Australia increasing by more than 10 per cent,” Mr Martin said.

Source : The Mercury

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