Latest figures reveal $33.7bn loss for Australia’s tourism industry

Rearview shot of a young man taking in the view while standing on a mountain peak

The financial implications of the coronavirus pandemic on Australia’s tourism industry during the first half of 2020 have been revealed.

Australian tourism has seen overall losses of $33.7 billion for January to June 2020, according to an early release summary on international tourism results by Tourism Research Australia.

Of this, $12 billion (53 per cent) has been lost on international tourism, and $21.7 billion on domestic tourism, including $17.7 billion from overnight travel and $4 billion for day travel.

In the June quarter, fewer than 10,000 international visitors arrived in Australia, compared with 1.9 million during the same period in 2019.

The results of the latest National Visitor Survey also reflect the enormous impacts of the 2019-20 bushfire season which, on top of the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, contributed to losses of $4 billion in spending on domestic day trips, from January to June 2020.

Overnight trips involving indoor activities were particularly affected during the June quarter 2020, with visitation to arts, heritage, and social activities falling by more than 90 per cent. In addition, trips that included eating out and dining at restaurants were down by 84 per cent.

Tourism Research Australia noted that this pattern is consistent with travellers preferring to drive to regional areas over visits to capital cities during the quarter: overall, capital cities saw a far more significant fall in domestic overnight visits (78 per cent) than regional areas (61 per cent).

On the flipside, overnight trips involving nature and other outdoor activities fared better. The decline ranged between 60 per cent and 75 per cent for trips with visits to farms, national parks and beaches.

Furthermore, the transport used for domestic overnight trips changed significantly in the June quarter 2020.

Travel by self-drive vehicle accounted for over 90 per cent (9.2 million) of all domestic overnight trips. This was up from 73 per cent on the June quarter of 2019. In contrast, domestic overnight trips that included air travel fell from 24 per cent to six per cent.

Visitor nights fell by 15 per cent for the year ending June 2020, and 62 per cent (or 64 million) for the June quarter 2020. These falls were much larger for the commercial accommodation sector in June quarter 2020.

The Australian Tourism Industry Council’s executive director, Simon Westaway, said the figures highlight the depth of the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

“These are naturally terrible results as Australian tourism faced the then full-frontal assault of the first COVID-19 wave that swept the country,” he said.

“The effective shutdown of our international visitor market and the host of state and territory border closures translated into incredibly dramatic slumps in visitor movement and spend.

“These tourism visitors and spend figures are now the benchmark for sustained government funding support and to develop more partnerships with our industry and tourism regions.”

Westaway said jobs in tourism had also plummeted, with as few as one in 22 Australians now employed in the travel industry – as opposed to the pre-pandemic figure of one in 12.

“Hundreds of thousands of real jobs have been lost and we must build them back,” he said.

The release of Tourism Research Australia’s latest National Visitor Survey comes as Australia prepares to welcome Kiwis again, with both the Australian and New Zealand governments negotiating a deal to allow for a one-way trans-Tasman travel ‘bubble’ to take-off from 16 October.

It also comes as Queensland and Tasmania prepare to ease their border restrictions.

Featured image source: iStock/pixdeluxe

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