Without prejudice to the excellent work the Tourism and Transport Forum does in promoting infrastructure that will help the tourism industry, the comments being made about sponsor Qantas’s industrial problems by chief executive John Lee need to be critiqued.

At the outset Lee is framing the Qantas situation as a threat to tourism requiring government intervention.

But using Qantas’s own figures, it only does 18% of the longer haul traffic to and from Australia (that is Australians and visitors flying to and from this country) which means that as far as inbound tourism is concerned Qantas the full service brand is of fractional relevance.

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A key element of the dispute with the license engineers and pilots is their resistance to ‘change’, which Qantas currently defines as slashing its flights to London by half in order to find a problematical investment in a sham Asia state flag carrier operating sort haul jets that won’t even be able to fly non-stop to Sydney or Melbourne from Singapore or Kuala Lumpur.

The benefits of this adventure do not immediately appear to be of benefit to inbound tourism at all. Of course it is possible there is much more to Red Quitter or whatever the psuedo Malaysian or Singaporean flag carrier venture than A320s with better sleeper seats than a Qantas A380 is called,  to quote its role as defined by Qantas  CEO Alan Joyce.

(Sleeper seats, A320s, good grief!)

Lee points to risks the Qantas problems have posed to the spring racing carnival and the following summer holiday season. He may well be right, but we do not have any clear work that shows us how much signs of softening in domestic tourism demand reflects lack of consumer confidence, the competing attractions of international travel because of a strong Australian dollar, and the disincentive for inbound tourism caused by the high Australian dollar not to mention Eurozone and US economic uncertainties and efforts by Beijing to curb inflation.

Blaming the conduct of court sanctioned industrial action against Qantas by its  key staff for cresting a crisis in domestic tourism is, with respect, absurd.

The thriving Qantas leisure brand, Jetstar, is continuing to thrive and is unaffected by the dispute. Hello Mr Lee, what planet are you on?

On ABC TV this morning Lee tried to link the closure of five Queenland island resorts to the stresses the Qantas dispute is putting on domestic tourism. They have all been closed for a long time, and Qantas hasn’t even been flying anyone to them for even longer.

It seems reasonable to conclude that the tourism lobby is working on the premise that it can say anything and no one in the media will call it to account.

Similarly the Qantas claim to have been forced to remove 88,000 seats from availability in the current four weeks has it seems been more than offset by Virgin Australia putting an additional 124,000 seats on sale over the same period.

Flight Centre managing director Graham Turner joined in the pleas for government intervention to save tourism from a Qantas implosion yesterday. Which is surpassingly curious given that the travel retailer is outstandingly competitive at selling  alternatives to Qantas for overseas travel, and presumably has a view on how the Asia strategies and the cutting of Qantas long haul flights will actually help the tourism industry.

Turner did make the point that Qantas could never agree to giving control over its strategies to the unions. He is of course absolutely correct.

The tragedy is that as far as Qantas is concerned nothing can be done to prevent bad management decisions, the legacy of which is already abundantly clear in its plummeting relevance to inbound tourism.

Whether by mutual agreement, or compulsory arbitration, it is fair to suggest that the Qantas unions will get their money, but not any control over decisions which will further shrink the significance of the full service Qantas brand.