The Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) says time, distance and cost in a post-COVID era of travel has pushed Australia’s tourism industry back 20 years.
ATEC Managing Director, Peter Shelley said while Australia has always been at the top of the bucket list for many global travellers, and ATEC’s contacts say sentiment remains the same, what has changed is the urgency to travel here where export tourism businesses are facing cautious consumers looking for minimal risk holidays closer to home.
And the reality of converting these intending travellers to Australian visitors is being hampered by a complex mix of changeable and expensive air travel, visa application delays, global insecurity and deteriorating economic sentiment, which is impacting confidence to travel in the short term.
“With so many influences at play, the propensity to travel long distances has been dampened by concerns which lead many travellers venturing closer to home and ATEC members are clearly reporting Europe and the US as their major competitors in the current market,” Mr Shelley said.
The latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer predicts U.S and Europe recovering much faster than the Asia-Pacific region which is still well down on 2019 visitor numbers, highlighting a much slower return for Australia’s export tourism industry.
“Despite a positive uptick in booking pipelines and Australia’s desirability as a destination, the reality is our recovery is going to be much slower than anticipated due to our distance and relative cost from some of our key markets,” Mr Shelley said.
“While many suppliers moved quickly and effectively to replace their lost market with domestic travellers during the pandemic, the size and strength of domestic visitation is in no way capable of replacing our high-spending international visitors.
“ATEC’s recent Member ‘Pulse’ survey highlights a widening gap between slowing domestic tourism business off the back of growing outbound travel, and inadequate inbound visitation to top up a growing shortfall, with nearly 40 percent of tourism product suppliers revealing their domestic business has already slowed and that inbound is not closing the gap.
“At the same time inbound tour operators, who manage and curate itineraries for international visitors, are still operating at around 30 percent of their pre-COVID capacity as they struggle with these global factors along with reduced financial capacity and staff shortages, meaning a full recovery is a long way off.
“While the doors to international visitors are now open, ABS statistics clearly show a stronger return of Australian travellers heading overseas than visitors making their way here and this gap is bound to widen before we see a significant improvement.”