Australia’s inbound visitor numbers remain slow to rise and tourism businesses continue to feel the drag of the Covid-lockdown which brought A$45 billion (US$31 billion) of tourism exports to a halt.
This is in contrast to the northern hemisphere where international travellers have already regained their pre-pandemic appetite for travel.
Peter Shelley, managing director, Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC), said: “While international visitor numbers remain down, so does business revenue and therefore government revenue – ultimately there is less impetus for investment and limited industry growth.
“With inbound tourism capable of making such a significant contribution to the bottom line of both business and government coffers, getting us back to market quickly has the added bonus of helping along the Australian economy.”
Arrival numbers for December 2022 show Australia is still 40 per cent down compared to the number of international visitors who arrived in December 2019, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics.
“Last year, the Federal Labor Government promised a A$10 million fund to support Australian tourism exporters to drive back into market, but today the fund remains undelivered with no word on when this industry will see the support materialise,” said Shelley.
Disappointed on the non-delivery of the support fund, he added: “There is no doubt we were late in returning to the international travel marketplace, but we can clearly see our recovery is taking much longer than for our competitors in the northern hemisphere and even Africa.
“With Europe already at 87 per cent of its pre-Covid capacity, Australia has a long way to go which will be made doubly challenging for our industry given we are a longhaul and more complex destination, making it more difficult for us to convert international holiday makers.”
With the high level of competitiveness for the global tourism dollar, Shelley stated that Australia’s sluggish return fully highlights the need for stronger government investment in re-establishing the country’s brand on the world stage.
“Covid-19 brought Australia’s tourism exports to a halt and took with it more than 50 years of trusted trade relationships and engagement. Much of these are small- to medium-size businesses which have limited resources to restart – however, with a little support, (it) can bring Australia back to full capacity much sooner than 2025,” he opined.
“Flights and staffing are key challenges for inbound tourism but we still have a great reputation globally and international visitors are keen on Australia. What we need to find is the key to unlock this opportunity.”