Forget hard hats, red earth and fly-in, fly-out drudgery. Tourism is once again helping to drive Australia’s growth, and could even explain why the end of the resources boom hasn’t left more people on the dole queue. According to research from Barclays, the value of non-mining, non-farm exports has climbed 7 per cent over the past 12 months, and services such as tourism are leading the way.
The reason is the sharp depreciation of the Australian dollar in that time, and a related drop in the price of key commodities such as iron ore and coal. So while miners are shipping more volume than ever to make up the price shortfall, Australia is looking increasingly cheap to holidaymakers, students and business groups from China, the US and Europe. Their currencies are, respectively, stable, relatively strong and resilient against the odds.
According to the latest trade data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the value of inbound tourism, including that connected to education and business, for May this year was 11 per cent higher than a year ago. Total receipts for the year to the end of May are worth about $17 billion, just more than coal at around $16.5 billion. If this trend continues, say a range of analysts, tourism will have replaced coal as Australia’s number two export earner, behind iron ore.