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US backpacker visa opens doors to new American market

US backpacker visa opens doors to new American market ( A new reciprocal work and holiday visa which will allow young Americans to travel and work in Australia for up to a year will potentially open the door to thousands more backpackers a peak tourism industry body has said.

The Australian Tourism Export Council was elated at today’s announcement that the visa, which had been under consideration for some time, was expected to come into operation as of October 31 this year.

Chair of ATEC’s Backpacker Tourism Advisory Panel (BTAP) and head of YHA NSW, Julian Ledger, said the backpacker industry, through BTAP, had been lobbying for the introduction of such a visa for a number of years.

“We have been working closely with the Department of Immigration and its Tourism Visa Advisory Group on this initiative so the news that the visa will be implemented is fantastic for our backpacking industry,” Mr Ledger said.

“Backpackers are one of Australia’s key markets with more than half a million visiting Australia in the year to March 2007 spending $2.8 billion dollars*.

“More than 48,000 US backpackers travelled in Australia in the year to March and this new visa means the potential to grow this market is significant.”

Mr Ledger said American backpackers had long been a significant market for Australia, but the length of time they could stay had been limited unless they held a student or sponsored visa which allowed for restricted work opportunities.

“The prospect for Americans aged between 18 and 30 to spend up to a year working and travelling in Australia will have multiple benefits - from filling crucial labour shortages, particularly in regional areas, to increasing cultural understanding between our two countries,” he said.

ATEC Managing Director Matthew Hingerty said the reciprocal visa would also have long-term positive effects for US/Australia trade relations.

“As today’s young Australians and young Americans – who are tomorrow’s business and political leaders – spend more time travelling and building contacts between our two countries we will see the emergence of long-term trade benefits,” Mr Hingerty said.

“We will have a whole new generation of Americans who will have a first-hand love for and understanding of Australia, who will have friends and roots here, and who will hopefully return to visit again and again throughout their lives.

“This new generation of American travellers will be the world’s future leaders and will have a wider understanding of the world that their parents never had the opportunity for.”

* Tourism Research Australia: International Visitor Survey, March Quarter, 2007

Cheers, Kerri Anderson National Media & Communications Manager Email: Direct: (02) 8262 5501 Mobile: Reception: 0407 379 362 (02) 8262 5500 Fax: (02) 9268 0457

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