Last week the Australia Government very quickly and, in my view, very sensibly rejected proposals to half their national tourism marketing budget and, in addition, to eliminate entirely all tourism product development funding.
I was alarmed to note that many of the arguments used to justify past cuts made here in the UK and elsewhere were being cited by the Australian Commission of Audit as reason to slash their own spending on tourism. My real concern, however, was that the Australian Government might be persuaded to take this avenue and that in time Australia’s actions would then be cited back to us as reason to do the same again here, a case of “they have so we have, so perhaps we should too”. This is not a particularly sophisticated way of developing strategy and one I would hope that UK and other Governments might not be influenced by. But you can never be too sure, especially when the pressure is on to reduce spending and justification, rather than evidenced argument can occasionally take precedence.
So now the Australian Government have firmly kicked the proposal into the long grass, for the time being at least, do we just forget about it? If there was the grain of truth in my concern that cutbacks in Australia might serve to keep reductions in funding for other national tourist boards rolling, then might the converse also be true? Should Australia’s decision not at the very least be highlighted, noted and tucked away for use at a later date? Or might there not be some more immediate capital to be made from it, especially in the run up to our own general election in 2015?
Unfortunately I have neither the time nor the resource to research the detail of the Australian commission of audits recommendations on tourism, or to analysis the decision of Australian Government and their seemingly rapid rejection of the tourism element, within what is a much wider, whole economy report and recommendations. But to ignore the lessons of the threat of swingeing cuts, and the reprieve from it, might be to miss a valuable and potentially fleeting opportunity. I am therefore making sure that the thought is at lest being lodged widely with other tourism organisations in hope that one or more of them might rise to the challenge of researching the issue, however, superficially. Meanwhile I think there is a lot to be gained by as many people as possible making the general observation that the Australian Government have just rejected the general direction of travel taken by the UK Government regarding national tourist boards and their core central government funding. Not only did they reject the cuts but they have actual agreed to increase funding!