Prime minister Scott Morrison says the impact of the coronavirus on the Australian economy will be worse than the bushfires, but has ruled out a fiscal stimulus package to counter its effects.
As Tourism Australia this week launched a campaign to lure back international visitors, Mr Morrison confirmed there were no plans for additional travel bans on Italy, South Korea, Japan and Iran, which all are all tackling severe outbreaks of the infection.
He also hinted that the travel ban in place for China could be lifted earlier than anticipated when he spoke about Australia’s success in keep the disease at bay so far through self-isolation.
Mr Morrison said outside of higher education and tourism, the building, manufacturing and imports and exports sectors were all struggling. And he warned there would be no additional financial stimulus bail out, with Australia’s double economic hit meaning a surplus for the financial year was no longer on the cards.
Tourism Australia has meanwhile begun its international push to show the country is safe and open for business, two months after it was forced to pull a $15 million Kylie Minogue-led campaign as bushfires raged this summer.
Instead of celebrity endorsements, billboards will now appear in London’s Underground stations and bus shelters and on the sides of the city’s buses directly appealing to Australia’s “mates in the UK”.
“There’s still the coldest of beers,” they say. “There’s still the selfie-loving quokka. There’s still millions of mates waiting to meet you. There’s still nothing like Australia.”
Tourism minister Simon Birmingham says the campaign is about countering false impressions of Australia as an unsafe destination and showing a return to normality.
“The misinformation around the spread of the bushfires and now the impact of the coronavirus has dealt a major blow to our tourism industry and to global travel,” he said.
The campaign, funded as part of the government’s $76 million industry recovery package, will also include promotions across digital and social media, newspapers and magazines, TV advertising and joint promotional campaigns with airlines.
Peter Shelley, chair of ATEC, said: “Tourism Australia’s new pitch to win back international visitors is a welcome step in helping to drive new visitation following the setbacks experienced by tourism businesses across the nation as a result of January’s bushfires.
“This is the right time to be hitting the accelerator and encouraging our international visitors back to Australia and this campaign is one of the key demand driver activities the tourism industry has been waiting for.
“These steps towards rebuilding the momentum in some of our key Asian markets including Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and India as well as the United Kingdom, will reveal the true story that Australia is still a fantastic place to visit and has as much to offer as ever.
“We’ve missed out on one of the most lucrative booking periods of the year, but the team effort between industry, Tourism Australia and the federal and state governments means we are putting our best efforts towards regaining ground and reviving our $45bn export tourism industry.”
Tourism Australia managing director Phillipa Harrison described the campaign as a way of reminding people why they love Australia and showing that “we still have the stunning landscapes, beautiful beaches, amazing wildlife, incredible food and wine”.
Harrison warns it will take time and “sustained effort” for the industry to recover the ground lost through the double blow of bushfires and coronavirus travel bans.
Peter Shelley says it is vital to “bust the myth” that the whole of the country has been devastated by the fires and restore confidence in Australia.
“Building on the well known and loved campaign theme of ‘There’s nothing like Australia’, this campaign will be able to leverage the ideals of Australia that are already well known and loved across the world,” he said.
“ATEC is very glad to see this campaign kick off what will be an ongoing engagement program that will help rebuild visitation over the medium to long term and help get our export tourism industry back on track.”