Hotel bookings plummet following promising Spring

As Australia devotes $76 million to tourism recovery across the country, hotel performance data for December shows it is desperately needed.

Guest nights for the area within a two-hour-drive radius of Greater Sydney were severely affected by pre-New Year’s bushfires, according to latest data from industry analysts STR.

The Sydney Drive Regional market saw a 14.7 percent year-over-year decline in demand and double-digit declines in each of the three key performance metrics: occupancy (-14.5 percent to 52.2 percent), average daily rate (-18.4 percent to $194.74) and revenue per available room (-30.3 percent to $101.48).

“Because the physical impact of the bushfires has been predominantly across the Great Dividing Range of New South Wales and Victoria, we’ve not yet seen significant demand decreases in the major city areas of Australia,” said Matthew Burke, STR’s regional manager for the Pacific.

“However, these regional locations are popular tourist spots for family holidays in vacation homes, hotels and holiday parks.

“The post-Christmas period to the end of January is peak season, when so many local businesses rely on the transient tourist trade. Moreover, with road closures through January, we will watch to see the impact more broadly.”

In South Australia, STR reports the impact of bushfires on Kangaroo Island has been heavy, including the destruction and significant damage to a number of properties, which will have a direct impact on tourism in the short term.

“Certainly the focus is on the wellbeing of those dealing with incredible devastation around the country,” Burke said.

“We also want to do our part to keep the industry informed of hotel performance developments particularly in the recovery phase.”

The STR data paints a very different picture to the government’s just-published national and international visitor surveys.

Based on year-on-year figures for the period to the end of September 2019, they show many parts of the country – particularly the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and WA – boasting strong spring visitation from domestic and/or international visitors.

Visit Sunshine Coast CEO Simon Latchford said the south east Queensland region, which suffered bushfires early in the season through Noosa and Peregian Beach but was spared the worst of the devastation, would work hard to counter the negative effects of the fires.

“Naturally we are mindful of the potential negative publicity surrounding the bushfires in Australia over summer, he said.

“But in co-operation with Tourism and Events Queensland and Tourism Australia we are working hard to clarify the situation in our key international markets. We are confident that any disruption will be contained.”

Australian Hotels Association WA chief executive Bradley Woods welcomed the visitor survey results with the words: “Years of sustained advocacy efforts from industry as well as an attentive and committed effort from government is yielding brilliant results for WA’s hotels and hospitality venues.”

However, operators in WA’s Margaret River region say misinformation in the days since the East Coast bushfires have prompted numerous cancellations to the renowned wine region.

A spokesperson for the Margaret River Discovery company, which runs wine and adventure tours, wrote on social media: “Agggh. Just had my third cancellation in the last week with international tourists cancelling their Australia holiday due to the East Coast bushfires.

“I totally understand why people are cancelling if they have extended trips planned to various bushfire affected locations.

“But the maps of fires that were shared internationally on social and the media outlets looked like the entire country was on fire. And that unfortunately seems to be the impression some of the international travellers have.”

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