Backpackers are shunning Australia with visitor night numbers down -7% for the 2015-16 financial year and the industry is pointing the finger of blame squarely at the Federal Government and its maybe-we-will, maybe-we-won’t working holiday tax.

Under the proposal working holiday makers would be charged tax on every dollar they earn rather than getting the first $18,000 tax-free, which is the case for everyone else.

The slump in backpacker numbers is firmly against trend with the latest International Visitor Survey (IVS) figures revealing an overall growth of 10% in visitor arrivals to 7.2 million and record expenditure of $38 billion (+14%).

“However, the spectre of the backpacker tax has clearly had an impact on backpacker numbers, as it is the only sector that has declined,”  said Tourism Accommodation Australia CEO, Carol Giuseppi.

“Backpacker visitor nights are down particularly in Queensland, Western Australia and, the Northern Territory – the areas that most need backpackers for seasonal agriculture and tourism jobs.

“Australia competes globally for backpacker tourism and this proposed tax is clearly having an impact on working and travelling in Australia at a time when the Government’s own commissioned survey identified the need for 123,000 additional workers in the hospitality and tourism industry by 2020.”

The Government’s messaging on the tax has been abysmal, indicating that it may axe the proposed but failing to take action over the past few months one way or the other.

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