While some tourism businesses across Australia have seen an uptick in revenues from domestic visitors, many regional and remote tourism businesses and supply chain distributors with a dependency on international markets remain on a knife-edge. warns the peak industry body representing Australia’s tourism export sector.
Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) managing director Peter Shelley said:
Inbound tour operators (ITOs) have been the backbone of the export tourism industry, providing the conduit for millions of visitors coming to Australia each year.
With the end of JobKeeper, international borders closed and no further support, 81 percent of ITO businesses will close and that will destroy Australia’s ability to quickly get back in the game once borders reopen.
“Thousands of Australian businesses rely on the economic activity delivered by international visitors and around half of those visitors have been delivered though international retail travel agents serviced by Australian based ITOs – we simply can’t afford to lose their expertise, connections and experience.”
“Australian based ITO businesses are the ‘on-the-ground’ network that understand the destination, they have established relationships with thousands of local tourism products and experiences from which they create tailored travel itineraries for international visitors.
Australia has traditionally had around 200 ITO businesses of varying sizes which support tourism businesses to connect with around 50 international markets. Mr Shelley said that without them we are likely to see the decimation of the Australian inbound travel distribution ecosystem.
“These are specialist businesses which have established unique commercial connections with travel wholesalers in our largest inbound markets around the world over half a century.
“The recovery of inbound tourism will be driven by international travellers booking with retail travel agents who will provide security around booking flexibility and deposits, manage changes to travel arrangements if required and above all, provide guidance on COVID safe travel.
“Without a strong Australian ITO network, travel retailers will simply direct their travellers to other destinations which are easier to book and service, leaving Australia and thousands of tourism businesses high and dry.
“While we are heartened to see Australians travelling domestically, domestic tourism spend will never replace the billions of dollars in export revenue delivered by international visitors ,so it would be short sighted to rely on this current domestic enthusiasm to underpin the long term viability of our industry.
“Securing the future of a few hundred businesses and those that are the ‘connectors’ with international travellers, will be critical to our recovery and therefore an important short term investment in the future of our inbound tourism sector which will deliver enormous returns over future years.