Tourism industry fact sheet

This fact sheet provides an overview of the legal, operational and business issues relevant to the tourism industry group. This group covers businesses from a wide variety of industries that sell goods or provide services to visitors who have travelled from their usual place of residence (international or domestic) such as:

  • tour operators
  • travel agents
  • short-term accommodation providers
  • recreation service providers
  • transport and hire service providers.

As well as the information in this fact sheet, you should check our general business information for additional regulations and obligations relevant to your business. For further advice and assistance, contact your accountant, solicitor or business adviser.

See our topics on this page for detailed information on the tourism industry:

Research

Industry research is an important part of planning for your business. It may uncover economic and industry trends, establish or improve your business and help you keep pace with your industry.

Key government sources for industry specific statistics on the tourism industry include:

  • Tourism Research Australia (TRA)
    TRA is an agency that provides tourism statistics and data on domestic travel, international visitors, forecasts and region specific data.
  • Tourism Australia
    Visit the Tourism Australia website to find visitor arrival statistics as well as information on market segments relevant to the tourism industry.
  • Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)
    The ABS provides information such as accommodation statistics, visitor arrivals and departures and gross value of spending in different industries. All these figures are available on the Tourism topic of the ABS website.

Key legislation & initiatives

Legislation often plays a large part in how you run your business, so it’s important to be aware of the laws that apply to your industry. Key legislation that may affect businesses in the tourism industry includes:

Mandatory industry codes & standards

Quality accreditation

You can have your say on government policy and regulation affecting the future of your industry by registering on the Business consultation website.

Licences & permits

Licences and permits specific to the tourism industry are often administered by state or territory governments and are largely related to:

  • registration for travel agents
  • registration for tour operators
  • registration for accommodation providers
  • registration of a caravan park
  • fishing and boating licencing (see also our Fisheries industry fact sheet)
  • permit for the use of national parks, forests or marine parks
  • permit to operate at an airport
  • permit to conduct whale or dolphin watching activities
  • permit for Aboriginal land visits 
  • eco-tourism licensing
  • permit to use public land
  • erecting/displaying signage
  • playing video/sound recordings
  • preparing and/or selling food
  • selling and/or consumption of alcohol
  • outdoor dining
  • selling tobacco products
  • gaming/lottery activities
  • disposal of waste
  • importing goods
  • restricted trading days
  • handling, storage and use of chemicals or dangerous substances.

Need help deciding which environmental permits and licences apply to your tourism business? Download the tourism operator guidelines from the Department of Environment website.

Search the Australian Business Licence and Information Service (ABLIS) website to find out what licences and permits you need for your industry.

Employment

If you employ staff, you need to comply with Australia’s national workplace laws and the specific requirements in your industry:

Apprentices and trainees

With flexible hours and on the job training, the tourism industry lends itself easily to taking on apprentices and trainees. If you take on an apprentice or trainee, you can access a range of government support and financial help. See the Australian Apprenticeships Centre website to find out more.

Finance & tax

There are a number of finance and tax measures specific to tourism businesses, including:

  • Goods and Services Tax (GST)
    It’s important to know your GST obligations to ensure you are selling your services at the correct price and that you’re registered with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) to ensure you can claim your GST credits. ​Visit the ATO GST Travel and Tourism page for details specific to your industry.
  • Tax concessions
    Smaller tourism operators may also be eligible for a number of tax concessions. See the Small business entity concessions page on the ATO website for further details.

To find more finance and tax guidance, take a look at:

  • managing your tax records, for general advice from the ATO about what records you need to keep for tax purposes.
  • our information on tax.
  • our information on managing your finances.

Levies & charges

Levies and charges are generally used to fund activities that benefit the industry or region as a whole. Tourism levies usually help promote tourism in a particular area and form part of your local rates payment. More general levies differ from state to state but can also be included in your rates such as the fire levy, heritage levy or environment levy.

Visit your local council or state government agency for details on any levies or charges applicable in your area.

Grants

There are a number of programs available for the tourism industry at both the federal and local levels. Search Grants & Assistance to find specific grants that may be applicable to your business.

Looking for more government information and assistance? Try these tourism resources:

Workplace Health & Safety (WHS)

As well as the general occupational health and safety regulations, there are also some state-specific WHS requirements that may be relevant to the tourism industry including:

  • licensing for high risk work 
  • standards for safe diving practices 
  • national marine safety laws 
  • standards for protective clothing and equipment
  • prevention of burns from hot liquids, surfaces or steam
  • prevention of falls
  • prevention and response to workplace bullying
  • prevention of workplace violence (e.g. robbery)
  • prevention of injury from animal handling 
  • standards for occupational safety signage
  • national standard for manual handling
  • occupational noise management
  • electrical safety.

Need help understanding your WHS obligations? Try these government resources:

Insurance

As well as compulsory insurance such as workers compensation, there are also a number of specific insurance options for businesses in the tourism industry.

Insurance options vary depending on your business type but can include insurance for public liability, property and buildings, caravans, vessels, buses, vehicles or business interruption.

Go to insurance for details on general insurance options for business.

Intellectual Property (IP)

As well as trade marks, there are additional IP rights that may be relevant to the tourism industry. For example, in order to play, use or reproduce film, sound or video recordings you need to obtain a licence.

IP Australia is the main federal government agency responsible for granting rights in patents, trade marks and designs. Visit the IP Australia website to find out more about your IP options.

Industry training

Industry training can be an important part of your business survival. New methods or marketing strategies can often help improve your competitiveness and grow your tourism business. Need some help getting started?

  • See the Tourism Australia events calendar for a list of tourism events, seminars, training courses and workshops.
  • Go to trainingfor tips on training yourself and your staff.
  • Search Events to find government events, seminars, training courses and workshops.

Environment

Tourism businesses often rely heavily on the environment to explore and showcase the natural wonders of Australia, so they can have a potentially large impact on the environment including the local flora and fauna. The main environmental concerns that businesses in the tourism industry should be aware of include:

  • protection of national parks, forests or marine parks
  • protection of whales, dolphins and other marine life
  • protection of waterways including rivers, lakes, estuaries and wetlands
  • protection of threatened species
  • protection of Aboriginal heritage sites and land
  • protection of world heritage and other heritage listed sights
  • waste management and reduction
  • sustainability.

See specific advice from the Department of Environment for tourism operators. Go to environmental management for advice on how you can manage your impact on the environment.

Key government organisations & websites

The key federal government agencies and websites relevant to the tourism industry include:

The key state and territory government agencies relevant to the tourism industry include:

Key advisers

Business advisers can be a valuable tool when establishing and developing your business in your industry. Search Advisory Services to find one near you.

Industry groups

You may also wish to consult with an industry association or group for more information and advice on your industry.

Other useful information

Other information that may be particularly relevant to the tourism industry include:

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