Australia's annual leave hoard 'a disgrace': Ferguson

Australians have too much annual leave up their sleeves and employers should encourage them to take more short breaks, federal Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson says.

Mr Ferguson said the amount of leave owed to Australian workers was "a disgrace".

He said many young Australians were hoarding leave to take extended holidays overseas.

Combined with the effect of the strong Australian dollar, this was harming the domestic tourism market.

With wages increasing annually, accumulated leave was also hurting business, he said.

Mr Ferguson said Australians should consider taking more short three- or four-day holidays, rather than saving their leave.

"We've got to change our own mindset [and get people to realise that] a short break is as good as a long break and encourage people to actually have a holiday in Australia," he told reporters at the Australia-China Tourism Summit in Cairns.

"We need to be encouraging Australians to take not just long holidays, but to take that long weekend in Tasmania, that mid-year break in north Queensland, that three- or four-day holiday."

According to Tourism Australia's "No Leave, No Life" campaign, which focuses on enticing Australians to holiday at home, employees have built up 118 million days and $33 billion in accrued annual leave, with one in four Australian full-time workers accruing more than 25 days leave.


The website claims "this stockpiled leave affects the health of employees who choose to stay at work rather than taking a well-earned break, and affects the performance and morale of the companies they work for."

The campaign is aimed at employers informing them how to "tackle the stockpile of annual leave right now".

Research by Roy Morgan showed one in four Australian full-time employees were leave stockpilers.

According to the research, 80 per cent of stockpilers cited personal barriers to leave-taking, with the availability of funds cited as the biggest concern. Fitting around a partner's availability came in second and deliberate accrual for emergencies or a big trip was the third most common reason.

Meanwhile 9.57 per cent of stockpilers consider work-related barriers prevented them from taking leave, compared to 48 per cent of non-stockpilers.

Tourism focus turns to China

Meanwhile, Federal Minister Assisting on Tourism Nick Sherry told reporters at the summit that Australia would look to Chinese investors to foot the bill for rejuvenating its ageing tourism infrastructure.

Mr Sherry said investment in tourism infrastructure across Australia had been too low over the past decade, providing a poor image for visitors.

"It [investment] has been insufficient to maintain and expand a modern infrastructure, so some of our infrastructure is looking old and worn," he said.

Mr Sherry said the federal government was seeking to encourage Australian institutions to invest in tourism infrastructure but would look overseas, particularity, to China, if there was not sufficient local interest.

"At the end of the day, wherever that investment comes from, frankly, we don't mind whether it is Australian or foreign," he said.

"There is, in China, interest in investing in Australian tourism and infrastructure. We seek to encourage that."

Mr Sherry said investment in infrastructure was crucial to plans to boost Australia's tourism industry, which is struggling with the high Australian dollar and an increase in the number of Australians travelling overseas.

Although fewer travellers were coming to Australia from Europe and North America, Mr Sherry said demand from Asian countries was growing.

"We shouldn't forget that Asian currencies have, like the Australian dollar, generally been trending up against the US dollar," he said.

"That's one of the reasons why growth from Asia has been so strong."

Tourism Australia yesterday unveiled its 10-year strategic plan aimed at substantially boosting the number of Chinese tourists to Australia over the next decade.

Managing director Andrew McEvoy said the Chinese outbound tourism market was expected to be worth $9.5 billion to Australia by 2020.

However, he said it was vital that Australia fought to improve its market share.

"Australia has had a good head start but still needs a robust plan for the future that focuses on trade, consumers, aviation access, partnerships and shifts in market opportunity," Mr McEvoy said.

AAP, with Lee-Maree Gallo

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