THE AUSTRALIAN Tourism Export Council (ATEC) is doing what it can to help the travel and tourism industry focus on staying the course of the COVID-19 shutdown and prepare as best it can for a pared-back emergence from the current cold reality. Most are barely afloat.

International visitor results for March, released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) "confirm that our once strong and vibrant tourism export industry is in crisis having dropped by more than 60 percent on the same month in 2019" said ATEC managing director Peter Shelley. For most, they only ray of sunshine is the Federal Government's JobKeeper program to assist staff to stay linked to their tourism businesses. 

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

“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.

“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," Mr Shelley said.

“These businesses are desperately hoping we can welcome New Zealand visitors before the end of the JobKeeper 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," Mr shelley said.

“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.”



AUSTRALIAN tourism exports have delivered more than $350 billion to our economy over the past 10 years and a record $45.4 billion last year alone. This is export income Australia will not see again for a number of years, according to the Australian Toruism Export Council (ATEC).

“Today’s International Visitor Survey (IVS) results released by the Federal Government are a snapshot of where we were right before tragedy hit our tourism industry in January 2020,” ATEC managing director Peter Shelley said.

“Remember these figures, sadly they are the best we will see for some time. Shift forward to April 2020 and we see an industry devastated by COVID-19 with mass job shedding, business closures, hibernation, dislocation of the export channel and an industry desperately trying to hold on till we get to the other side. 

“While Australia’s domestic tourism sector may revive in the coming months, it’s likely international tourism will be much slower and longer to rebuild and our growth will be greatly handicaped on the other side.

“Australia remains a desirable destination and we have members who are still getting inquiries from international guests who are wanting to come later this year, the trouble is we just don't know if the borders will be open.

“We often go back to the horror of September 11, when every plane across the globe was grounded for just a few days.  That was a disaster for international tourism, but now we are looking at an international travel lockdown for at least six months."

In a survey of 500 industry members today, ATEC revealed 49 percent of respondents believe New Zealand will be the first international market to re-engage, followed by China (26%) with traditional markets of Europe, the UK and US expected to be the last to return to our shores. 

In the meantime ATEC has developed a whole of industry, integrated support package to help tourism businesses rebuild and come out the other side stronger and more capable of facing the new normal.

“A key feature of our program will be engaging the skills and knowledge of our Inbound Tour Operators in helping tourism regions to develop new tourism product for the international market.

“One thing tourism businesses can do during this hibernation period is to work on their business - most of the time they are focused on working in their business, providing service to their customers.  We want to make sure these businesses are able to use this opportunity to re-skill for a new tourism marketplace.”


By Ellen Boonstra, Asia correspondent >>

GIVING NEW MEANING to the phrase ‘close to nature’, Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp and Resort is giving guests a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spend the night observing Thailand’s majestic elephants in their natural habitat – while staying in unique transparent Jungle Bubbles.

Unfolding across 160 acres of Northern Thailand’s ancient jungle, the resort is set atop a hill overlooking the Mekong and Ruak rivers.

The secluded location is exclusively positioned to take in majestic three-country views over the confluence of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar, and grazing elephants in the most stunning of natural settings below.  

Located in the jungle, the two pods are perched on raised wooden decks offering uninterrupted views of the elephants, as well as stargazing at night.

The Jungle Bubbles were custom designed by Eye In The Sky and are constructed with high-tech polyester fabric using exclusive ‘Precontraint technology’ – developed by innovative French materials company, the Serge Ferrari group – to create a milieu in which guests can enjoy an immersive, close-to-nature experience.


To complete the glamour camping experience – known as ‘glamping’ – the well-appointed bubble accommodation is fully air-conditioned, offering 22 square metres of indoor floor space; a 4.5m diameter bedroom and living space, with a king bed and seating area under a transparent roof; and an enclosed, non-transparent ensuite shower and vanity.

Guests at Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp and Resort can purchase the Jungle Bubble experience as an optional activity and spend the night from dusk till dawn, returning to the hotel in the morning.

Rates start from 17,700 Thai baht per night (A$850) for two people and this includes a delectable dinner basket; a fully stocked mini bar; 24-hour in-room dining service; and tea and coffee making facilities. 

As leaders in the field of ethical elephant tourism, the resort is the driving force behind the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation, set up primarily to help elephants that cannot help themselves.

The foundation assists local people that find themselves, through abuse or through circumstance, unable to provide and maintain an income for themselves, for their mahouts (people who work with elephants) and their families.

Here appropriate activities are designed that allow the elephant caretakers to raise the funds they need to look after the elephants without forcing them into activities they might not enjoy.



BRISBANE hosted more than 940 business events worth an estimated $351 million in economic impact in the 2018-19 financial year, almost doubling the previous year's results according to the most recent Queensland Business Events Survey.

Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner said the Queensland Business Events Survey showed the meetings, incentives, conference and exhibition sector in Brisbane was enjoying "incredible success". Support of long-term exhibitions and conferences continues to pay off, in spite of visitor market fluctuations.

“2018-19 saw 209,000 delegates attend a business event in Brisbane, delivering 579,986 delegate days – a 44 percent increase on the previous financial year,” Cr Schrinner said.  

“The business events sector is vital to Brisbane, boosting our economy, growing our knowledge sectors and supporting our accommodation, venue, hospitality and service providers.

“The biennial Brisbane Truck Show always delivers a major economic boost, attracting over 34,000 visitors to the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre (BCEC) in May 2019 and generating an estimated $75 million in economic impact," he said.

“Brisbane’s world-leading research and expertise also secured international events including the Asia Pacific League of Associations for Rheumatology Congress with 1,500 delegates in April, and the Australasian Sonographers Association Annual Conference with 1,200 delegates in June.

“Our success continued throughout 2019 with the Asia Pacific Cities Summit and Mayor’s Forum in July. This event attracted 1,400 government, business and emerging leaders from 140 cities for four days of talks on the innovation, mobility, liveability and sustainability of cities.

“Held in November 2019, the strategically important International Air Transport Association (IATA) Slot Conference brought together 1,200 representatives from international airlines and airports to plan future flight schedules," Cr Schrinner said.

“Playing host to this conference gave us the opportunity to provide industry with a first-hand experience of Brisbane’s transformative growth and the mid-year opening of Brisbane Airport’s second runway, as we continue our focus on attracting new direct airline services.” 

Economic development board Brisbane Marketing worked with the State Government and Brisbane Airport Corporation to secure an AirAsia service from Bangkok (June 2019), Qantas services from San Francisco (February 2020) and Chicago (April 2020) and a Virgin service from Haneda, Tokyo (March 2020).


Brisbane Marketing’s general manager of business and major events, Juliet Alabaster, said the city sets itself apart with a Team Brisbane approach to building its visitor economy.

“Our strategic partnerships with BCEC, all levels of government and industry trailblazers continue to produce successful bids and grow Brisbane’s profile as a leading business events destination,” Ms Alabaster said.

“A wave of tourism infrastructure including the Howard Smith Wharves dining, entertainment and events precinct, new four- and five-star hotels and experiences has also played a huge part in our ability to attract conferences and incentive events.

“Brisbane continues to break records with international and interstate visitation and spending at all-time highs, while BCEC enjoyed its most successful financial year ever and passenger numbers at Brisbane Airport during 2019 exceeded 24.1 million for the first time.”

Business events to be held in Brisbane in 2020 include:

  • · Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) Asia Pacific Forum and Exhibition 2020 BCEC, 800 attendees expected.
  • · Hort Connections – BCEC, 1200 people.
  • · 2020 Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction – BCEC, 2500 people.
  • · 23rd International Congress on the Education of the Deaf (ICED 2020) – Royal ICC, 1000 people.
  • · Flight Centre Global Gathering 2020 – 4000 people.
  • · Land Forces 2020 – BCEC, 1000 people.
  • · NKT-IKBU Buddhist International Fall Festival 2020 – Royal ICC, 2500 people.
  • · Early Childhood Australia National Conference 2020 – BCEC, 2000 people.
  • · Royal Australia and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists Congress 2020 – BCEC, 1500 people.
  • · International Pediatric Sleep Association Congress (IPSA) and Sleep Down Under 2020 – BCEC, 1000 people.


THE Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) has welcomed the Federal Government’s announcement of a $76 million industry specific bushfire recovery fund.

“Today’s announcement of the Governments Rebuilding Australian Tourism package will be welcomed by tourism businesses across Australia,” ATEC managing director Peter Shelley said. 

“We applaud the key initiatives nominated to help the inbound tourism sector to recover, including an increase in international media and social media influencer engagement along with support for the Australian Tourism Exchange which is our largest annual trade show,' he said.

“While tourism businesses on the frontline of recent bushfires have an immediate need for support in their recovery, our global reputation as a holiday destination has been significantly impacted and we need to act urgently to reassure visitors that Australia is open for business.

“The inbound industry has experienced millions of dollars in cancellations from intending international travellers and we are also seeing a significant decrease in forward bookings which we have estimated will reduce inbound tourism revenue by up to $4.5 billion," Mr Shelley said.

“Timing is now of the essence with key booking windows from our larger international markets closing towards the end of February, therefore engaging these markets in the short term, especially via the established tourism trade channels will be critical.

“Our united strategy needs to be strong and nuanced, clearly defined, well-resourced and expertly executed in order to balance the swirling negative perceptions of Australia which have come off the back of the bushfires.

“Australia’s tourism industry is the economic backbone of many of the regional communities impacted by the recent bushfires.  As an industry employing one in 13 Australians and an inbound sector contributing more than $44bn a year to the national economy, we can’t afford to waste any time getting our export tourism outlook back on track," he said.

“While Australians understand the extent of the bushfire damage, and have already been keen to re-engage and support the affected areas, we need to work hard to positively influence the narrative around our global reputation as a leading tourism destination.”


THE Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) has congratulated Tourism Australia on launching the first step in its  Holiday Here This Year campaign.

“This campaign has been quick off the blocks and will work to capitalise on the good will and sentiment shared by all Australians in helping to get the communities affected by bushfires back on their feet,” ATEC managing director Peter Shelley said. 

“With tourism at the heart of so many regional communities, encouraging Australian’s to prioritise a holiday at home is a great way to support the rebuilding of these towns and recoup some of the summer’s lost revenue.

“Tourism Australia is leading the charge with their expertise and reach and it’s great to see the positive collaboration between our national and state based tourism marketing bodies in delivering a single message of recovery," Mr Shelley said.

“While getting our domestic market engaged is a great first step in helping the devastated regional communities, our international campaign needs to encompass support for every destination."

Mr Shelley said the bushfires have had a severe impact on the international perception of Australia as a travel destination with a 40 percent reduction in forward bookings from Western markets including the UK, Europe and the US and a 20 percent overall decline.

“Despite the fact that most of the favoured holiday spots for international visitors have been unaffected, people looking to visit Australia have been spooked," Mr Shelley said.

“While this domestic campaign is a great first step, we are keenly anticipating the next stage of the recovery campaign and its focus on rebuilding brand Australia for our international audience.”


BRISBANE MARKETING and Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) have appointed BrandStory in Singapore as their strategic marketing and travel representation agency in Southeast Asia.

Brisbane Marketing CEO, Brett Fraser said it was a momentous day for Brisbane’s tourism industry. He said the establishment of this consortium marked a new era for Brisbane and is the first time the city has coordinated resources to target key international markets.

“This appointment clearly signals Brisbane’s intentions as a destination,” Mr Fraser said.  

“Brisbane has seen extraordinary growth in visitor numbers, infrastructure development and tourism product over the past five years. 

“Our work through BrandStory will help us better tell this story to our key markets and develop business for Brisbane-based operators.”

The BrandStory appointment is a key element of the three-year partnership between Brisbane Marketing and Brisbane Airport Corporation to boost recognition of Brand Brisbane in international markets.

Brisbane Airport Corporation CEO, Gert Jan de Graaff, said the decision to team with Brisbane Marketing to jointly fund and engage an agency with ASEAN market expertise was a mutually beneficial approach. 

“The pooling of significant additional funding by BAC and BM via this unique partnership has enabled the appointment of this specialist agency that will represent our shared interest in promoting Brisbane to this important market, making it more compelling for travellers to visit and stay longer in Brisbane.

“This is especially timely given our growing capacity and capability with the opening of Brisbane’s new runway mid-next year,” Mr de Graaff said.

The agency will work closely with other Australian representatives, including Tourism Australia and Tourism and Events Queensland, to maximise destination awareness in market. BrandStory is a strategic marketing and travel representation consultancy based in Singapore and will represent Brisbane across ASEAN markets.

BrandStory executive director, Peter Phang said he was delighted to take on the commission.

“Brisbane is an exciting destination with high appeal in South East Asia,” Mr Phang said. “We are delighted to be representing Brisbane and will deliver a powerful voice for the Greater Brisbane region in this highly competitive market."

The BrandStory appointment follows the recent signing of Advocate Travel Marketing to represent Brisbane in the North American market. Advocate Travel Marketing is a specialist trade and consumer engagement agency based in Los Angeles, now representing Brisbane in the US and Canada.

In January 2019, Brisbane Marketing and Brisbane Airport Corporation entered into a new multi-million-dollar international partnership marketing program to implement world standard destination marketing campaigns for Brisbane and to improve awareness of the city as a global destination for leisure travel.




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