Key industry bodies have commented on the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ release of overseas arrival figures in light of the “horror movie” unfolding in the industry.
ABS Overseas Visitor Arrivals data for the year to January 2020 showed an estimated 9.4 million in annual short-term visitor arrivals to Australia, rising 1.6 per cent in trend terms over the prior year and recording 789,000 international arrivals for the traditional high-season travel month.
The Australian Export Tourism Council’s managing director, Peter Shelley said the data showed what appears to be the lowest growth rate in many years.
“Our industry has borne the brunt of two exceptional setbacks and the international visitor numbers for January, released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) today, only provide a glimpse of where our industry is falling from,” Shelley said.
“With yesterday’s announcement of isolation measures for all new arrivals to Australia, our inbound tourism industry has effectively been shut down.
“No international visitors means all travel distributors, and many tourism suppliers, have no business and are unlikely to have any business in the near future. This comes right on the back of a massive decline in our industry that came as a result of January’s bushfires.”
Shelley called upon the government to provide support to keep the industry afloat.
“The damage to our inbound tourism sector across Australia will deliver a significant blow to Australia’s economy and, with more than 600,000 people employed in tourism jobs, that will have a dramatic flow on to employment,” he said.
“Australia’s tourism industry is falling from a great high – a high that has been a big part of our economic success over the past 10 years.”
ATIC executive director Simon Westaway said the backward-facing inbound visitor data simply reflects what a once robust Australian tourism industry looked like in contrast to how the debilitating impact of coronavirus and its spread has affected the industry.
Westaway is calling government authorities for faster delivery of visitor data to show the realtime and ongoing impacts of COVID-19.
“Based on standard timelines the horror movie that’s unfolded for Australian tourism during February and now into March will subsequently not be unveiled with formal ABS international visitor statistics until mid-April,” he said.
“Whilst industry understands the need to verify and clarify visitor data, real-time private sector insights are already showing air seat capacity and commensurate international visitor falls into Australia as upwards of 30 per cent and climbing.
“We believe it is encumbered on all agencies to best support beleaguered industries like the international student market as well as tourism and that includes any considered way of bringing a snapshot of the most recently collected visitor data further forward for release.”
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