Cairns was once highly rated as a great tourist destination for international visitors and local holiday makers. It still is a fine place for a relaxing and interesting tropical vacation, but tourist numbers have decreased significantly, and Cairns is currently in the economic doldrums.
The same story is typical of most of our best venues for visitors. Just ask operators at Ayers Rock, Alice Springs, Margaret River and other quality gems on the tourist trail. Everyone has a viewpoint on what are the causes of the decline in tourist traffic, and how the problem can be fixed.
Most will tell you that it is the result of a high-priced Australian dollar, but this is only part of the story. We would be less than honest if we failed to acknowledge that too many of our tourist facilities are jaded and declining in stature, mainly due to a lack of new investment — there being better profits and capital gains elsewhere.
We must also accept that the high wages and penalty rates that are unfairly imposed on the tourist industry are overly burdensome and de-motivating to operators, while the training of staff to be good hosts is not as professional as that of competing nations.
Additionally, the industry spends too much money telling the world how great Australia is, but does far too little in point of sale activities to ensure that potential tourists actually sign on the line to come here.
We also have to acknowledge that airfares, particularly those from America and Japan, are too high, mainly due to Qantas monopolies on those routes.
To our detriment, we spend an extraordinary amount of time and money promoting our cities and beaches, and much too little on selling the virtues of unique holidays in the Australian bush that tell the colourful history of Australia.
There are thousands of cities and beaches around the world that compete with us, but there is only one Australian Outback.
Having said all this, let me say also that I am proud to be Australian, and want tourists to know that we are as fine a nation as you will find anywhere in the world.
Sadly, any tourist visiting our great land will think that we are nasty, unstable people as they watch the evening news and cop the barrage of negativity that spews out of Canberra telling them that Australia is in such dire straits that the end is nigh. Then, they see it repeated throughout our sensationalist media with an unceasing volatility of such fervour that they tell their friends not to bother coming to such an unhappy place.
It is time for us to tell them the undeniable fact that Australia is the most prosperous nation in the G20 — a bastion of opportunity that others cannot replicate.