On one hand while the Australian tourism industry is desperately trying to woo international travelers to its shores, the Australian government is undoing all the good work by its senseless policy implementations. The latest in a line of woefully wrong policies and examples of bad timing, the Government has decided to drastically cut the limit of free tobacco that a traveler can bring in to the country duty free. Starting today all travelers visiting Australia will no longer be able to carry a carton of cigarettes. The limit is being revised to only 50 cigarettes or 50 mg of tobacco products.
What this means is travelers arriving at Australian airports from today onwards will be in for some dismay and above all plenty of frustration, when made to stand in queue for a longer period of time while their baggage goes through stringent checking for the presence of tobacco.
Tourists found carrying excess tobacco products will have to leave them at the counter or pay excess duty. Adding to the woes, last year’s Federal budget cut of $34 million over four years has already resulted in a loss of 70 customs staff across eight major airports of entry in Australia.
Drastically understaffed, this had already raised the standing time at customs queues to an additional 24 minutes. The new policy change is likely to see more complaints and frustrations in the queues when passengers will be ideally looking to get out and check in to their hotel rooms after a long flight in.
Ms. Caroline Wilkie, CEO of AAA did not hide her apprehensions when she said that the tourists coming in to Australia will have no way to know the policy changes up until the time they stand in queue. No advance campaigns have been started by the government and travelers boarding their flights in their respective countries will have no chance of knowing that they are in for a long and frustrating checking when they arrive wearily at their destinations.
Chinese consumers are one of the major users of tobacco in the world and Chinese tourists regularly carry large amounts of tobacco products when they visit Australia. They are undoubtedly going to be the hardest hit. Ironically Tourism Australia has been doing a lot of hard work trying to get a share of the burgeoning Asian tourism pie and China is one of their top priorities.
The decision could not have come at a worse time as Australian airports have been investing billions in their infrastructure trying to improve customer experience. This will really leave a bad taste in the mouth for everybody involved and seriously hamper Australia’s chances as a choice for repeat visit.