Domestic tourism won’t save operators

Tiffanie Turnbull
(Australian Associated Press)


Australians are being urged to holiday at home this year, but industry stakeholders say unless they turn out in droves with money to burn, it may have little impact on the ailing tourism industry.

For every international visitor lost due to coronavirus travel bans, seven-and-a-half domestic tourists are needed to fill the economic hole gouged out by COVID-19.

Even in the best of times, Australian tourists spend less than their international counterparts, but amid national economic uncertainty, tourism operators are having to offer big discounts to lure Australians to their doorsteps.

“The government commentary at the moment is that we’ll be okay because the domestic tourism is going to replace international, but we don’t think that’s the case,” Australian Tourism Export Council managing director Peter Shelley told AAP.

“No matter what you do, the domestic tourism spend will never replace the $45 billion internationals spend when they visit this country.”

In 2019, more than 117 million domestic tourists spent $80.7 billion on overnight trips within Australia, an average of $687 per trip.

Comparatively, in the same year, international visitors spent an average of $5211 per trip.

“You spend differently when you’re travelling in another country than when you’re travelling in your own country – it’s just a natural mindset,” Mr Shelley says.

ATEC surveyed more than 500 businesses and found that a third of them would not benefit from an uptick in domestic tourism.

More than half expected they would not survive six months without international visitors.

Many of the businesses are geared towards overseas tourists and pivoting their offerings to suit domestic travellers would bring little return on investment.

JobKeeper is helping many of them keep their heads above water, but Mr Shelley says they can only sustain their other overhead costs without any income for so long.

He says international tourist destinations, like far north Queensland, and other places that aren’t within close proximity of large population centres are least likely to get by on domestic tourism dollars.

Australians can and should do everything they can to support the industry themselves, but Mr Shelley says an extension of JobKeeper for the tourism industry and further government support is what is really needed.

“The fear is that unless we can find a way forward to support the businesses … we will see a significant reduction in the number of tourism experiences available post-COVID.”


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