THE LATEST Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Overseas Arrivals and Departures results reveal the month Australia’s tourism industry officially flatlined, with an extraordinary 99.7 percent decrease on April 2019, the largest decrease on record.
“This is the beginning of what will be a deep and protracted downturn for our export tourism industry and there is absolutely no end in sight,” Australian Tourism Export Council managing director Peter Shelley said of the figures.
“COVID has simply decimated our $45 billion export tourism industry which now faces a very difficult future with many businesses unlikely to last the distance while there is so much uncertainty surrounding the reopening of international borders.
“While JobKeeper is a critical part of the business survival package in supporting the retention of valuable staff, the commercial challenge of meeting the costs of fixed overheads over 12 months without revenue will be a bridge too far for many.
“It’s devastating to see so many small businesses effectively cut down overnight after years of hard yards carving out a profitable business, with many choosing to walk away because the mountain is simply too big to climb for a second time," Mr Shelley said.
“While there is some relief for businesses who can connect to domestic tourists, for many tourism businesses who have built their strength on international visitation, the prognosis is dire.”
Mr Shelley said ATEC’s survey of export tourism businesses across Australia suggests half of these tourism businesses will fail if borders are not opened in the coming six months.
“Domestic tourism simply won't be enough to plug the $45 billion hole left by our international visitors," he said.
“While most Australian’s will look to holiday at home for the foreseeable future, it can't be presumed that those people who had international travel plans for 2020 will reinvest that budget toward a domestic trip.
“Consumer confidence, employment insecurity and budget priorities will all be major factors in the spending choices of Australians and travel is likely to be one of the discretionary expenses people choose to do without.
“These issues, coupled with the business costs of social distancing, will put many thousands of tourism businesses under enormous strain and many will simply choose not to reopen or will quickly fail.
“We can see from the ABS data that Australia’s export tourism industry has been a strong and vibrant contributor to the national economy over many years, bringing wealth to regional communities and providing a significant number of jobs - and all of this benefit has now been destroyed.
“The Government’s JobKeeper program has helped to support thousands of tourism businesses to hold on. We know most of them can remain viable once business returns, but in the meantime they will continue to need support.”