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Treasurer outlines the naked reality of tourism in crisis

May 14, 2020 Headline News No Comments

To sum up the extent of Australia’s travel and tourism crisis in a single sentence, you can’t do much better than to quote the words that Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg delivered to Australia’s Parliament in Canberra this week.

“Domestic and international air travel is down by more than 97 per cent, with nearly 40,000 passengers moving through Brisbane airport on Easter Sunday last year, compared to just 31 passengers this year,” Frydenberg said.

As if to underscore his words, Australia’s international visitor results for March, released on Tuesday by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, have confirmed as expected that the country’s once strong and vibrant tourism export industry is in the deep doldrums, having dropped by more than 60% on the same month in 2019.

“Australia finds itself at war against a faceless and flagless enemy,” Frydenberg said.

“The coronavirus has created a one in a hundred year event; a health and economic shock the likes of which the world has never seen.”

Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) managing director Peter Shelley echoed the sentiments when he spoke of Australia’s inbound industry having been brought to “a complete halt”.

“A few months ago, tourism was a rising star of Australia’s export sector, bringing AUD 45 billion to our economy each year,” Shelley said, “but now it’s fallen to a pale imitation of its great past.

The map below, provided by the Australian Bureau of statistics, tells the story.

“Just as we began to rebuild from the rubble of January’s bushfires which saw mass cancellations from both domestic and international visitors, tourism businesses across the country were the first to be hit by the coronavirus, which has bought our inbound industry to a complete halt,” Shelley continued.

“We now work towards the opportunity of reopening some businesses to welcome domestic visitors on a phased timetable which will vary across the states. While this is a positive, many tourism and hospitality businesses will choose to remain in hibernation simply because essential social distancing requirements make it commercially impossible to open the doors.

“The reality is it will be 2021 before we see any sign of international visitors back on our shores and inbound tourism will be one of the last sectors of our economy to make it to the ‘other side’, sadly with many tourism businesses and thousands of staff lost on the journey.

“The only bright light in the horizon for tourism businesses targeting the international visitor is the possibility of travel across the Tasman and our industry welcomes this opportunity with open arms.

Below: Resident returns. Short-term trips. Two years to March 2020. ABS

“These businesses are desperately hoping we can welcome New Zealand visitors before the end of the Job Keeper program in September, otherwise the many businesses who are desperately trying to survive will not be there to help rebuild the industry in the future.

“For the thousands of people have committed a lifetime to establish successful businesses working in the international tourism sector, the opportunity to welcome their first overseas visitors remains a distant thought, as our borders are expected to remain closed for many months.

“While there is a lot to look forward to as the dark days of the COVID fog lifts, we all hope the recovery will be quick and that governments across the country work in partnership with the industry to build back a better tourism industry which will thrive into the future.”

Below: Visitor arrivals, state or territory of stay, for year to March 2020. ABS

Edited by Peter Needham



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