As parts of Melbourne are again put into lockdown due to a flare up of coronavirus cases, the latest International Visitor Survey (IVS) results, published 8 July by the Australian Tourism Export Council, look set to be the first of a long series of grim quarterly readings and reveal the desperate prospects of Australia’s export tourism industry.
“The March quarter IVS show the last gasps of our valuable export tourism industry as it once was,” ATEC Managing Director Peter Shelley said commenting on the results.
“The last time we reviewed these IVS numbers we were looking at record inbound visitation of close to 9m visitors who delivered over A$45bn (US$31.25bn) in spending to the Australian economy.
“While the industry is fully supportive of a strong health response, all tourism businesses have taken a battering in 2020, especially businesses relying on international visitors which were heavily impacted by mass cancellations off the back of the January bushfires, floods and then the pandemic which all rolled into each other,” he said.
March quarter IVS figures still show some value delivered early in the year by international visitors before the borders officially closed mid-March, but overall international spending was down by almost $4bn in one quarter and visitor numbers down by 28%.
Shelley said Australian tourism businesses, which have traditionally had a heavy focus on catering to international visitors, will need continued government support to ensure they remain capable of reigniting inbound tourism once borders reopen.
“Not all tourism businesses are capable of embracing domestic tourism as their saviour as many have built their product specifically to service international visitors. Changing their business model requires investment and rebuilding that they simply either do not have or the risks outweigh the opportunity to embrace domestic tourism,” the ATEC MD went on.
“ATEC’s industry survey shows 48% of tourism businesses derived 60-100% of their revenue from international visitors while 35% say the return of domestic tourism would make no difference to the desperate state of their business viability.
“We believe tourism businesses will need continued wage support along with support to manage ongoing business overhead costs in a period of zero revenue, plus stimulus restart grants. We need to retain support for businesses trying to starve off business failure while the international borders are closed which may be as long as a further 12 months, and then marketing funding to help restart our international trade once borders open,” Shelley said, adding that supporting the redesign or hibernation of inbound tourism operators would be critical in ensuring the industry maintains both the product and supply chain operations.
“We know the government and the community understand the success of our export tourism industry and the significant economic value it can bring to our economy, and in that way will be keen to support us through this exceptionally challenging period,” he said.