Why Australia's backpacker tax fiasco might not have been the disaster we all thought...
Australia’s reputation as a haven for backpackers and sabbatical-taking students seems to be on the increase once again, according to a leading gap year travel agency.
The Global Work & Travel Co, which serves around 3,000 wishing to head to the country each year, claims that the Australian Government’s drawn out and much-publicised 'Backpacker Tax' debate is no longer having a detrimental effect- despite an initial outcry which saw interest drop by almost a third.
Bookings and enquiries for Australia as a working holiday destination nosedived by as much as 30%, as young travellers changed their plans about heading to Australia and looked at other destinations like the USA or New Zealand instead.
But that was before the government decided to lower the tax to 15% in November last year, whilst also investing $10 million (AUS) on attracting working holiday makers.
The scheme seems to have paid off, according to Global Work & Travel Co’s CEO Jürgen Himmelmann.
He said: "During the height of the backpacker tax debate, our London and Vancouver offices were inundated with questions from travellers, unsure how the changes would affect their plans.
"It's been hard work to keep up with demand. We’ve had to double our bookings team to handle it.
"Young people have a strong desire in seeing foreign cultures, we don't expect interest in working holidays to slow down anytime soon."
The company's latest figures have shown that the number of daily enquiries has not just surpassed previous levels, but increased a further 25%. If this is reflective of behaviour across the industry then it appears that the government really has emerged from the backpacker tax controversy, not just unscathed, but perhaps even emboldened.
Timeline: India takes unicorn leap with six in five days
We chart an historic week in India’s tech industry, where in just five days, between 5-9 April 2021, the country achieved six new unicorns, bringing India’s total to 10 in 2021 to date, an immense unicorn leap from just seven in 2020 and six in 2019.
April 5: Meesho
India’s first social commerce unicorn, Meesho raised US$300m from SoftBank, Facebook and Shunwei Capital, giving the Bangalore-based startup a US$2.1bn valuation, a threefold jump from its previous funding round in 2019. Founded in 2015 by two IIT-Delhi graduates, Meesho connects producers and resellers, helping small businesses sell through social media. It has 45m customers and has enabled 13m entrepreneurs to start their online businesses with no investment.
April 6: CRED
Founded just over two years ago, Bangalore-based credit card repayment app CRED raised US$215m from Falcon Edge Capital and Coatue, nearly trebling its valuation to US$2.2bn from its January US$80m round. Allowing customers to pay off their credit card debt while earning CRED coins which they cash in for rewards, CRED has grown rapidly during COVID-19, doubling its customer base to nearly 6 million in a year.
April 7: API Holdings / Groww
The first epharmacy startup to gain unicorn status, PharmEasy (API Holdings), which has digitised 60,000 brick and mortar pharmacies and 400 doctors across India, raised US$350m in a round led by Prosus Ventures. Founded by four former Flipkart employees as a way of making investing simple, investment platform Groww became India’s second-youngest fintech unicorn, raising US$83m in Series D funding led by Tiger Global, quadrupling its previous round in September.
April 8: ShareChat
New Delhi-grown social media startup ShareChat, founded in 2016 by Mohalla Tech raised US$502m from Lightspeed Ventures, Tiger Global, Twitter and Snap taking its raised total over six rounds to US$766m and pushing its valuation to US$2.1bn. The funding will be used to grow its user base and short video platform Moj, which launched in 2020 following TikTok’s ban in India. The regional language startup claims 280m users.
April 9: Gupshup
AI-led conversational message startup joined the unicorn club after raising US$100m from Tiger Global giving it a ten-fold valuation of US$1.4bn. The smart messaging platform, which has seen accelerated growth during the pandemic, was founded in Bangalore in 2005 by serial entrepreneur Beerud Sheth, whose online freelancing platform Elance is now listed. Gupshup’s API enables 100,000+ businesses to build messaging and conversation experiences across 30+ communication channels.