Mr FINCH - While we are talking about destinations and proving us as a destination, I want to talk a little about car rental firms and the impact that the airport charges on car rental firms is going to have to consumers planning their holidays here. There is a rental charge for car rental firms at the airport of 7 per cent. Whatever the contract is with the client, 7 per cent is the charge. If somebody is coming in for a fortnight of touring, the airport gets 7 per cent of whatever the going the cost is. I heard that that is going to be increased to 9 per cent. While Chris Corrigan referred to the airport owners as predatory monopolists, it just seems as though the car rental firms are really at the behest of the airport owners just to be able to charge whatever they like. I am a bit concerned that the car rental firms interstate are at the mercy of the airport owners and they have that increase coming up. By the way, it does not affect the car rental firms because what they are bound and committed to do is pass those charges on to the consumer. But it means that consumers' charges are being increased.

Ms WRIEDT - I will make some brief comments before I hand over to Rob to answer that. I understand that there has been a long-term arrangement and whilst there has been some increase in recent years in the actual percentage it has always been the case that there has been a percentage levy or charge, whatever you like to call it, on the rental contracts. That has been the case ever since the airports moved to control ownership. To all intents and purposes, it is really about market forces. If people have an objection to it, they may choose not to rent a car and choose other modes of transport while they are here.

Mr FINCH - They may choose not to come to Tasmania.

Ms WRIEDT - We do not have any information that it is acting as a disincentive for visitors.

Mr GIASON - Firstly, we have to understand that this is not isolated to Tasmania. These charges by hire car companies are imposed in all destinations that they service. At what rate, I do not have a clear understanding but certainly it is not unique to Tasmania. I think we need to understand that.

There have been some increases in rates since the airports went into private ownership, so there has been a change there. There is also a new range of facilities and infrastructure that the airports are providing to the rental companies. Dealing with the rental companies, as I have for 30 years, I know they are very, very well placed to argue their point and to also ensure that they protect the visitor. We would need to always, as we do, monitor these issues so it does not become a disincentive. We certainly do not see that at this time but I am encouraged by the enhanced infrastructure and facilities of how visitors are being serviced at airports here in Tasmania now. That level of service has increased tenfold in recent months here in Hobart of course and Launceston has a very good operation as well. A very good airport operator is also Melbourne.

Mr FINCH - Do you have complaints from the airlines about the charges that are being made? I have heard from the industry that the charges are being relentlessly increased.

Mr GIASON - I have not heard of that intensity of increase. The issue is that there is a whole range of new charging techniques which has come about because of the low cost models, where even airports actually charged on tonnage of aircraft landings. They now have a charge on visitor numbers, not only visitors but also locals going out. Per passenger landed is now the charge. There is a new range of different charges to try to ensure that those market forces are maintaining the competitive services they can.

The other issue that we are monitoring very carefully is the car rental per day for visitors in the State. It is a very competitive price. We have a range of competitive operators who serve the market. The visitor certainly does benefit from competitive low costs.

[10.45 a.m.]
Mr FINCH - Do you confer with the owners of the Hobart, Launceston and other airports to keep in touch with the market forces and how the market is feeling about the charges they are imposing?

Mr GIASON - Most definitely. As part of the Access Task Force, we monitor all of the information that we can possibly monitor from all of those suppliers and servers of visitor services in that industry. We try to capture regular information from all of them as to what is happening and monitor the impacts with respect to those potential disincentives.

Mr FINCH - Again, do you communicate that to the airport owners? Do you have an opportunity to brief them on your findings?

Mr GIASON - The dialogue is face to face and also on a regular basis.

Monday 30 May 2005 – Estimates Committee B
Paula Wriedt