The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) ( 15:53 ): My colleagues in the other place have often had to suffer through the four-minute burst of shallow political spin when the Minister for Tourism rises to answer a Dorothy Dixer or deliver a ministerial statement. The Minister for Tourism certainly likes to selectively quote tourism statistics when they are favourable and question their veracity when they are not. The Hon. R.L. Brokenshire: Is that the one who flies all over the world?
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: That is the one who is always travelling all over the world. Your local member, the member for Mawson, is the one who spends time drinking Argentinian wine instead of promoting our great state. However, I have become distracted, Mr President. Who could forget the way the minister embarrassed himself by questioning the statistical data released by Tourism Research Australia, having previously quoted those very same statistics?
I welcome any increase to the number of tourism visitors and overall tourism expenditure; however, what I do not welcome and what the Minister for Tourism has failed to articulate is that the long‑term trend in our tourism industry is not as perfect as the minister would have you believe. One key statistic that the Minister for Tourism continues to ignore is the number of tourism visitor nights spent in South Australia.
Quite simply, the number of domestic visitor nights spent in South Australia is less than what it was in 2003 and 2004. The number of international visitor nights spent in South Australia is less than what it was three years ago in 2013. In 2004, there were just over 21.6 million visitor nights spent in South Australia. Fast forward to the latest data for the year ending March 2016, and there are over 640,000 fewer domestic visitor nights spent in South Australia. Similarly, in 2013 there were almost 10.5 million international visitor nights spent in South Australia, and again fast forward two years and we find that there were some 636,000 fewer international visitor nights spent in South Australia.
The number of visitor nights is a very important indicator. It is an important indicator because a decrease in visitor nights effectively amounts to forgone tourism expenditure, that is, the more nights both domestic and international tourists spend in South Australia the more money they spend. The more nights these tourists spend in South Australia directly translates to more money spent in our hotels, our restaurants, our bars, our pubs, our shopping centres. It is more money for local business, and importantly it is external money being brought into South Australia's economy. It is all about an opportunity to create more jobs in South Australia which is something this government has failed to do.
Another damning statistic is that South Australia's share of the overall national tourism pie has been trending down for more than a decade. While the number of tourists and tourism expenditure continues to increase, our proportion of the pie is trending down. By way of example, had South Australia's share of the pie with respect to international visitor nights remained the same as it was in 2005, then our state would have had almost 2.5 million more international visitor nights in 2015. That is 2.5 million nights less because we have not kept pace with the rest of the nation.
The Minister for Tourism, perhaps ignorant of that fact, was out there beating his chest and telling everyone how great the state was and how great he was doing. Over that 10 year period between 2005 and 2015, South Australia has effectively forgone 10.6 million visitor nights. Based on the most recent average international visitor expenditure per day, that amounts to just over $1 billion in forgone tourism expenditure. That is $1 billion less spent in South Australian hotels, pubs, restaurants, bars and retail outlets. That is $1 billion less being brought into the state's economy. This is just the international visitor nights, mind you, not the domestics, which would further inflate the figure.
South Australia is in an economic rut. We are fast becoming the economic basket case of Australia. We have the highest unemployment in the nation at some 6.9 per cent, and our domestic growth has completely flatlined at almost 0 per cent. We are losing thousands of our youngest and brightest to the greener pastures of the eastern seaboard every year. The government is going to fail the South Australian tourism industry in assisting it to reach its potential of $8 billion by 2020. The current projections indicate the tourism industry will fall approximately $1.3 billion short of its target.
I reiterate that South Australia's long-term tourist trend is not as good as it could be. We have forgone $1 billion of expenditure. If the government had kept pace with the growth of the rest of the nation, we would not be falling short of that target. South Australia's proportion of the international tourism pie is continuing to trend downwards. I suppose this is indicative of all other key economic indicators in which our state is fast finding its way to the bottom of the pack, if it is not there already. South Australia's tourism industry has a great deal of potential; however, the current government is failing to assist our tourism industry in reaching its potential and regaining our rightful share of the national tourism pie.