GOLD Coast Tourism boss Martin Winter (pictured) has slammed increased charges to international passengers and airports under the Federal Budget as “unconscionable”.

The Passenger Movement Charge will increase from $47 to $55 from July 1 and it will rise in line with the Consumer Price Index.

The increase will collect an extra $600 million (rising to an estimated $925m in 2014-15) and $61 million of that will be used by Tourism Australia in a four-year Asian marketing campaign.

It will also become more expensive to run an airport, with Australia’s international airports forced to subsidise the cost of Federal Police aviation security services patrols at a cost of $118 million over four years.

“We are really disappointed from a Gold Coast perspective on what came out of the budget details last night,” says Winter.

“The government is on the right track increasing marketing in Asia and I am sure Tourism Australia will invest the money wisely, but it is unfortunate a dividend comes from a tax we disagree with completely.

“We would have far preferred to have seen the Passenger Movement Charges abolished.

“The fee is being increased by $8 per person, but what we are seeing is just 10 per cent of the Passenger Movement Charge going back into the market.

“The Federal Government, by 2014-15, will receive about $925 million from the Passenger Movement Charge of which just $61 million is going back to the industry.

“This is an extra tax on international tourists that just adds to the current conditions facing our tourism industry including the strength of the Australian Dollar, the tyranny of distance and fierce competition from rival destinations.”

Winter says the vast majority of Gold Coast tourism operators would benefit from the small business provisions, like the increase of the immediate corporate write-off threshold by 30 per cent to $6500.

But he slammed the charges international airports will have to pay for AFP patrols.

“This is absolutely unconscionable. The airports will pass on the fee to airlines and the airlines will in turn pass it on in ticket prices to the travelling customer.”

The biggest budget sweetener for tourists to Queensland involves the Great Barrier Reef. The Standard Tourist Program Charge for visitors travelling to the reef with a commercial operator was slashed from $6 to $3.50 per day and the half-day passes reduced from $3 to $1.75.

It is a temporary measure which will run until March 2015 costing the government $10.4 million.

The Gold Coast wasn’t given any such sweeteners and Winter believes the city was overlooked because the government believes there are other areas worse off.

“The government is of the mind that the tourism industry on the Gold Coast is not suffering,” he says.

Winter points out that the theme parks, Mantra and Jupiter’s Hotel and Casino have all registered some strong recent numbers.

“It is patchy,” says Winter of the Coast’s tourism industry.

“I think it is fair to say it is because of the strength of the Gold Coast it is highly unlikely we will ever get the kind of support they get up at the top end of Queensland.”

Moncrieff Liberal MP Stephen Ciobo says the budget does nothing for the Gold Coast tourism industry.

“There is $600m worth of tourism taxes and there is a raft of new expenses now required to be paid by airports that will be passed on to the airlines and in turn the passengers,” says Ciobo.

“This budget is a complete charade … there is no upside for the Gold Coast and nothing when it comes to helping the Gold Coast become a better tourist destination.”

Surfers Paradise Alliance chair Laura Younger agrees there is little in the budget for the tourism industry and says more money from the passenger movement charge increase should have been passed on.

“I would like to think that if what you take from an industry you would put back into the industry by way of support,” she says.

Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson the new Asia Marketing Fund is in addition to Tourism Australia’s $530 million in funding over four years to market Australia domestically and internationally.

“In less than a decade, it is estimated that there will be 100 million outbound trips undertaken by people from China each year,” he says.

“This investment will help ensure Australia is their destination of choice.”

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