Tourism slump nears double figures

By: Graham Gardiner

Domestic tourism suffered a decline of 9.9 percent in visitor nights for the first half of 2009, resulting in the

Domestic tourism suffered a decline of 9.9 percent in visitor nights for the first half of 2009, resulting in the loss of thousands of jobs, according to the Tourism and Transport Forum (TTF)

Tourism Research Australia’s National Visitor Survey for the June quarter reveals fewer Australians are choosing domestic destinations for both work and leisure.

TTF Managing Director Christopher Brown says Australia’s tourism industry has been hit hard by the global financial crisis, with these figures the latest in a long line of evidence.

"A fall of 9.9 percent in the number of nights Australians have spent away from home travelling in Australia is disastrous, considering that domestic tourism accounts for almost three-quarters of the industry," he says.

"The worst impact is job losses in regional areas, especially in Queensland where visitor nights have plummeted by 12.8 percent compared to the first six months of 2008.

"This has seen unemployment at around 10 percent in Far North Queensland, while youth unemployment in that region has surged at an even faster rate."

Brown says local destinations are increasingly competing with overseas locations.

"The number of Australians travelling domestically fell 9.3 percent in the six months to the end of June compared to last year while, in stark contrast, the number of people heading overseas during the same period grew by 1.3 percent," he says.

"Of even greater concern is the massive surge in outbound travel we saw in July as Australians took advantage of new air capacity and cheap airfares."

One of the key challenges to Australia’s domestic tourism industry over the coming years will be the growth in international airline capacity, according to Brown.

"We simply can’t afford to take domestic tourism for granted in the face of such intense competition for Australians’ travel dollars and this emphasises the need for ongoing investment in tourism infrastructure and domestic tourism marketing to encourage people to holiday at home," he explains.

"While the various state governments have ramped up their tourism marketing, the Federal government has not yet seen fit to make a serious contribution to help turn around the industry’s flagging fortunes."

With at least 20,000 direct tourism jobs lost as a result of the downturn, the TTF is calling on the Federal Government to put up $40 million in emergency tourism marketing funding, which will be matched by industry.

Brown says this will help to promote Australia both at home and abroad as a place to travel for business, employment and leisure.

He says overall tourism spending fell 5.6 percent for the first half of 2009 compared to 2008.

"Budget cuts have seen business travel expenditure fall a staggering 20.0 percent, off the back of a 15.6 percent drop in business visitor nights.

"Spending by holiday visitors is down 11.3 percent, with holiday nights down 7.6 percent, indicating that consumers are opting for more affordable alternatives," Brown says.

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