These are not words I find easy to write, but Greg Cole made an interesting point the other day. He suggested the backpacking sector would benefit from the formation of an industry association, paid for by members and the state tourism organisations with a full-time staff – along the lines of English Australia (EA).
There’s certainly something to be said for the model. When GEOS closed its eight Australian language schools earlier this year EA was there to mop up, making sure students were found alternative placements and protecting the reputation of the industry in the process.
When the international student sector became increasingly alarmed at falling numbers, EA was among those knocking on Canberra’s door demanding action.
The only trouble is, that sort of power doesn’t come cheap. EA annual fees start at A$1236 and climb to $9273 (both plus GST) – how many backpacker businesses would be willing and able to kick in that sort of cash to get something going?
Backpacker Tourism Advisory Panel (BTAP) chair Peter Ovenden does a great job pushing the sector’s agenda via ATEC’s national board and also has a strong message for the politicians. He said:
The shadow minister asks us ‘what we really really want’. We want customers in our businesses, preferably more each year (not less). We do not want over regulation. We want to pay fewer taxes and have greater incentives for growing our businesses (don’t get me started on payroll tax). We want them to take our views seriously as we have value to add. The same message should be given to all participants on both sides of politics and to all stakeholders.”
Do we need a trade association for that?