One of Australia’s peak accommodation groups has recommended to the Federal Govt that online travel agents should pay a levy to support tourism marketing. The Accommodation Association of Australia, which recently lobbied against a proposed hotel bed tax for its members on the Gold Coast, also suggested that a special tax should be considered for foreign owned websites such as Expedia and Airbnb.

The comments were contained in a submission made by AAA to this year’s budget process which argued that online travel agent make a lot of money out from selling hotel rooms but basically gave nothing back to the industry.

“They make limited direct contributions to the industry, which is in direct contrast to, for example, major airlines, which regularly commit to co-operative tourism marketing initiatives,” the submission says.

“At a time when the financial environment for the federal government is extremely tight, there is an opportunity for the government to generate additional revenue for tourism from online travel agencies by establishing a taxation regime for them.

“Under such a regime, if an online travel agency operates from within Australia, then it should pay a levy or tax which could be used to bolster funding for tourism marketing through Tourism Australia.

“In addition, if an online travel agency operates from outside of Australia, the Accommodation Association supports the Federal Government investigating if taxation revenue can be collected from those businesses.”

Chief Executive Officer of the AAA, Richard Munro, has been a vociferous opponent of tourism levies or bed taxes.

“The accommodation industry is strongly opposed to a bed tax,” Mr Munro said about the Gold Coast plan in late Feb.

“It would impose an unnecessary cost burden on visitors resulting in consumers re-considering whether or not to travel to what is an iconic tourism region.

“The end result is lower visitor numbers and less revenue for major tourism businesses, including hotels, motels and other accommodation businesses.

“Even a little as a few extra dollars a night would more than likely result in a drop of thousands of visitors to the Gold Coast.

“The Mayor should be rolling out the welcome mat for tourists – not hitting them with a new tax.”

Online travel agents strongly rejected the AAA proposal and the notion that they do not participate in co-operative marketing.

In fact, earlier this week Wotif.com said the recent Do it today, talk about it forever campaign for the Northern Territory created a 28% year on year spike in booking for participating hoteliers.

“It’s great to see suppliers reaping the benefits of this joint campaign, which was supported with TV advertisements on Foxtel as well as print and digital advertising,” said Wotif’s product director Donna Rodios.

“According to our booking data, the campaign also had a flow on effect for all suppliers in the region, with the campaign resulting in a 8% increase in bookings across all Northern Territory suppliers listed on Wotif.com.”

Tourism NT, Executive Director Marketing & Communications, Adam Coward said the strong results confirm the importance of its co-operative campaign strategy.

“Wotif.com is a key partner for Tourism NT,” he said.

Expedia and other online travel agents also say they do joint marketing campaigns with domestic tourism operators and are strongly opposed to any hint of a new tax or levy.

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