Australia is pricing itself out of the backpacker market by hiking the cost of working holiday visas, the peak national tourism body warns.
In his mid-year budget review yesterday, Treasurer Wayne Swan announced the cost of coming to Australia as a backpacker would go up by 28 per cent.
It means, from January 1, the cost of a working holiday visa will go up from $280 to around $360.
The Tourism & Transport Forum (TTF) says regional Australia will be the biggest losers from the price increase, with backpackers more likely to choose to visit other countries.
"If we keep raising the cost of coming to Australia, we risk pricing ourselves out of the market," TTF Chief Executive John Lee said today.
"It's wrong to assume people will keep coming regardless of cost - instead of coming to Australia as a working holiday maker they will go somewhere else."
Mr Lee said the fee increase meant backpackers would have less money to spend once they arrived, which would result in fewer visits to regional towns.
"And let's not forget, people applying for working holiday maker visas have to prove they have $5000 Australian and they must have a return plane ticket, so they've already made a massive commitment."
Mr Lee said the strong Australian dollar was already having a negative impact on visitor numbers.
"A UK backpacker now has to save over £3200 pounds, against £2000 ($3123) five years ago, while Europeans and Americans have to save 35 per cent more.
"Why do we want to make it even more difficult for them?"