The recovery for South-east Asian inbound into Australia (mainly Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia markets) is slightly ahead of the curve, with Singapore almost back to pre-pandemic levels – but Tourism Australia has not taken its foot off the pedal.
Phillipa Harrison, managing director, Tourism Australia, stated: “When we look at these three markets, we don’t just look at the population, but we look at the population’s propensity to travel and the number of high-yielding travellers. High-yielding travellers are not high-net-worth individuals, but instead, people who spend a lot of their discretionary income on travel, and like what Australia offers in terms of nature, wildlife, and good food and wine.”
Prior to the pandemic, Tourism Australia focused its marketing activities and campaigns in 15 markets, where the 15 markets made up 80 per cent of inbound business into Australia. Within South-east Asia, the three standout markets are Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
One opportunity that Tourism Australia sees, and is currently focused on communicating to the market, is how Muslim-friendly Australia is, so as to provide another segment of travellers that Australian suppliers can tap into, Harrison said.
“We’ve partnered with the Australia Tourism Export Council, where they’ve put together a training programme to educate Australian tourism organisations on how to cater to Muslim travellers, and make them feel comfortable in terms of their requirements. In fact, Western Australia just put together a brochure (which features halal cuisine, prayer facilities, and suggested itineraries) for Muslim travellers planning a trip to Western Australia,” she elaborated.
In light of this and to continue its upwards recovery trajectory, Tourism Australia held the Australia Marketplace South East Asia 2023 in Singapore from July 19 to 21 to provide Australian suppliers with the opportunity to meet South-east Asian buyers. In attendance were 114 sellers, and 88 buyers from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines.
When asked how this event differs from the Australia Tourism Exchange (ATE) held in April 2023, Harrison told TTG Asia: “A third of the buyers at Australia Marketplace South East Asia 2023 have never been to ATE. Also, our presence here does two things. It’s a good way to engage with our trade partners here, instead of having them to commit to taking a whole week to come down to Australia. It is also an opportunity to bring Australian suppliers up to these markets so that they can better immerse and understand the markets they are targeting. Hence, the events are complementary to each other.”
However, current skyrocketing airfares may deter some South-east Asian travellers from choosing to holiday in Australia.
As to whether Tourism Australia has a plan to help bring down current high airfares, its executive general manager of eastern markets and aviation, Andrew Hogg, said: “Like every industry, the global aviation industry has struggled to recover, and this is something out of our control. What we can do is to encourage capacity back to Australia, where the growth in capacity will help to normalise pricing.”
He predicted that the supply chain disruption will start to smoothen out over the next six months, as aircraft manufacturers get their delivery schedule back on track, airplanes are taken out of the desert, and rehiring of engineers, cabin crew and pilots are well underway. However, he cautioned that “airfares will never be the same as pre-Covid”.
Hogg noted: “There’s a lot of confidence in Australia from our aviation partners, and we’ve seen them keep capacity in the market. Our job is to make sure that the demand is there and work with airlines on the demand, so that they will commit to more capacity in the future.”
Currently, Australia’s inbound is sitting at around 77 per cent of pre-Covid levels, and once airlift is back on track, Harrison shared that Australia will see a full recovery “sometime in 2025”.
“In the longer term, our forecast is we’ll get to about 11 million inbound passengers by 2027, up from 9.4 million prior to the pandemic,” added Harrison.