A COALITION government would audit Australia's accommodation capacity in a bid to lure more visitors to regional areas.
Opposition tourism spokesman Bob Baldwin said while he could not yet announce a definitive policy, the Coalition would complete a one-off audit of the industry's capacity to get a clear picture of what accommodation was available, and where.
At the moment, data on accommodation collected by the Australian Bureau of Statistics does not take into account accommodation providers with less than 15 beds.
This meant many operators in regional areas were missed in the collection, leading to government decisions skewed towards larger operators, more often found in cities.
Mr Baldwin said if elected, the Coalition would ensure the audit would include small hotels, caravan parks, backpacker hostels, pubs and bed and breakfasts.
"Once this is known, we would be better placed to promote visitation to the regions for things like wine tourism, or for regional cultural and sporting events," Mr Baldwin said.
"Afterwards, accommodation service providers would be better able to attract finance to expand or enhance their venues, as banks need to know the likely return on investment.
"It also means Australia would be better placed to pitch for international events to be held outside capital cities."
It is understood the audit could lead to an online portal, which would collect and display data on national industry-wide occupancy rates on a regional basis.
"Businesses could choose to 'opt in' to this new service and enjoy all the benefits they currently enjoy through their interactions with finder services," Mr Baldwin said.
He said travellers would also be able to log-on and look at accommodation availability in different regions.
But research would have to be completed to ensure commercially sensitive information was not available - information which might show a competing accommodation provider what was happening on the other side of town.
Mr Baldwin said the program would be "designed by industry, for industry", to ensure the right information was shared and to ensure it informed government policy.
"Whilst maintaining successive governments' efforts to boost online business activity the Coalition will also investigate constructing a reliable, real-time, and industry-wide occupancy data collection and reporting service," he said.
"Designed by industry, for industry, it is envisaged that this independent office will gather and disseminate information on current occupancy levels.
"It will also gather information on forward bookings.
"The current system allows for reporting of past occupancy levels, providing a 'rear view mirror' snapshot in time."
The Federal Government this week launched a new Tourism Investment Guide, which highlights 80 different tourism investment opportunities across the nation.
While Mr Baldwin welcomed the announcement, he raised concerns the investment guide did not do enough for smaller operators outside of the high-end tourist ventures.
"The exclusion of small accommodation providers within the data capture represents a lost opportunity to establish a complete research platform upon which to base important tourism decisions" Mr Baldwin said.
"The government's focus on 80 new high end projects is an insult to other parts of the industry that feel ignored by Labor," Mr Baldwin said.
"It does nothing, for example, for the Australian Caravanning and Holiday Park Industry which is a significant tourism player employing over 10,000 people directly, generating in excess of $1.12 billion worth of annual accommodation revenue via 44.5 million overnight stays, much of which is in regional areas."
The Coalition's proposal would audit all accommodation service providers, including:
- Pubs with rooms
- Holiday parks
- Time share accommodation
- Bed and Breakfasts;
- Private rental accommodation an
- Camping sites (typically owned by councils)