With many of the country’s favourite international haunts indefinitely off limits to Australians into the near future, domestic tourism could see a surge in demand, according to one analyst.
Rheanna Norris, associate analyst at data and analytics company GlobalData, said the extension of international travel restrictions could boost domestic tourism in the short term.
“Australian destinations which were impacted by the bushfires earlier on this year will benefit,” Norris said.
“Residents are [being] told to ‘dream about their next Australian destination’ and domestic tourism across the nation will experience a surge in demand.
“Boasting a large variety of destinations, Australia’s impacted tourism industry should focus on attracting local residents, through making transport accessible to all visitor types and promote local destinations that are most in need of tourist dollars.”
It comes as Australia’s Minister for Tourism, Simon Birmingham, warned international travel restrictions put in place to arrest the COVID-19 pandemic in-country could remain after December.
“This is a time where, unfortunately, people can’t undertake holidays and they won’t be able to overseas for quite some time to come,” Minister Birmingham told the ABC’s News Breakfast.
“And there may be a slightly earlier point in time where it becomes feasible to think about domestic travel again.
“We’re not there yet, but certainly this time is a good time for a bit of dreaming, a bit of planning. Think about that Aussie break that you might take when we do finally get to the other side of this.”
His comments follow a consistent message from the federal government, which has repeatedly said the COVID-19 pandemic will affect Australia for at least six months.
Minister Birmingham said international travel restrictions had played “a key role” and would continue to play an important part in keeping Australia safe from the potentially deadly novel virus.
Furthermore, most of Australia’s cases of COVID-19 have come from overseas travellers, including more than 600 positive infections and 19 deaths from the Ruby Princess.
In other reports, Tourism Australia’s managing director Phillipa Harrison told ABC News it was “highly unlikely” domestic travel restrictions would lift before international.
“The process is likely to be gradual,” she said.
“So, our focus will most likely start with domestic travel; we’ll be strongly encouraging Australians to holiday at home.”
Separate to GlobalData’s predictions, the Australian Tourism Industry Council told ABC News a rush in bookings post-COVID-19 travel restrictions was unlikely, given Australia’s economy would struggle while unemployment rates were high.
“There will be green shoots and they could shoot quite quickly,” executive director Simon Westaway told ABC News.
“It’ll be for people that have the ability to do it — so retirees, people that are financially well-off and have got a propensity to do so and do really want to travel.”
Many who lose work may not be in a position to travel until they get back on their feet, he said.
“You’re obviously going to see households with an unemployed breadwinner unable to travel,” Westaway told ABC News.
Those that do venture out, however, will find local destinations open for business.
Westaway told the outlet the industry bounced back from the summer bushfires across Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia before being hit by COVID-19.
He expects the tourism industry to do the same again once COVID-19 restrictions ease.
The Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) believes there may not be a mad rush for Australians to holiday at home either.
Speaking to ABC News, chief executive Jayson Westbury said Australians will cast their eye to an overseas adventure as soon as they can.
“Australians have an adventurous spirit and while some might think that the minute travel bans are lifted we might all think to holiday at home, I suspect the very opposite is likely to happen,” Westbury said.
“Of course, all that depends on if people have a job, have annual leave and have the money to take the holiday in the first place.”
Featured image: Francois Peron National Park (iStock.com/Francesco Ricca Iacomino)