AUSTRALIA’S tourism industry could be hit by a surge in visitors after the country announced it would ban sex tourism from its tourist areas.
Sex tourism is a lucrative industry with an estimated $2.3 billion in annual revenue, according to the Tourism Council of Australia.
It is the biggest single industry in Australia and accounts for up to $100 billion in revenue.
A spokeswoman for Tourism Council Australia, which represents major Australian travel agencies, said a crackdown would make the industry vulnerable.
“Sex tourism will be a major concern for Australia in the long term,” she said.
“Our key challenge is the rapid increase in demand for our country, as well as the high rates of tourism spending in Thailand, where there is already a significant amount of sex tourism activity.”
Tourism Australia chief executive Chris Hoey said the council had asked for a warning from the government in the wake of the announcement, which was made at the weekend.
“We’re asking for them to take action now, but we’re also asking them to recognise that sex tourism is very much alive and well in Thailand and it will continue to be so,” he said.
Tourism Minister Peter Dutton said the government would “take the strongest action” to address sex tourism.
“Australia has one of the strongest laws against sex tourism in the world and we will take the strongest possible action to make sure that these companies are not allowed to operate in our country,” he told ABC News Breakfast.
“This will include the banning of sex tourists from all areas of Thailand.”
The tourism industry relies on the community for a healthy, safe and welcoming experience and we are working hard to ensure we have a safe and secure tourism experience in Thailand.
“Thailand has more than 100 sex tourism operators operating on the island, according the Tourism Ministry.
The minister said the ban would affect a range of tourist attractions, including parks, beaches, water parks, entertainment facilities, swimming pools, theatres and shopping malls.”
It will mean a significant reduction in tourist spending in areas where sex tourism operates,” he added.
Tourist organisations are already planning for the impact.”
There’s going to be a significant decrease in the number of tourists coming to Thailand because of the ban,” Ms Muthalakul said.
Thailand is home to some of the world’s largest tourist sites including the Great Wall, which is one of four UNESCO World Heritage sites in the country.