Tourism has been a major driver of economic and social development in Queensland since the end of World War II. In 2011, tourism's direct contribution to the economy was estimated to be $7.8 billion, and it generated direct employment of an estimated 118,000 full-time equivalent jobs (Queensland Tourism 2011). The multiplier effects of tourism account for another $9.2 billion, making it the most important component of the state's service sector. These figures suggest that the approach adopted by the Labor government over the last two decades to manage and develop Queensland tourism has generally been positive. However, a closer examination of recent trends and criticisms reveals that visitor demand has flat-lined: the industry is struggling under the weight of global and local pressures, investment has slowed, and there are issues of stagnating demand, competitiveness, service quality, industry capacity and innovation. Moreover, Queensland is losing international market share compared with New South Wales and Victoria (Tourism Research Australia 2011). Given that governments have a key role to play in creating and maintaining policy conditions that contribute to both a healthy economy and social well-being, what have been the Queensland Labor government's contributions to tourism, and what are the key challenges into the future?
Dianne Dredge is an environmental planner and Associate Professor in tourism Planning and Policy at Southern Cross University, Coolangatta.