International tourism slashed by more than a third

Australia’s tourism boss has warned that the back to back effects of the summer bushfires and coronavirus have slashed international tourism at the start of the year, but a sharp rebound is expected once the crisis is resolved.

Speaking at the 2020 Visitor Economy Forum yesterday, Tourism Australia managing director Phillipa Harrison said bookings from international visitors have fallen 35 per cent since December, with bookings from China dropping 11 per cent.

“This one isn’t about brand Australia, this one is about the downturn in travel globally,” she said.

“We have seen a significant initial sharp decline, which is expected given the magnitude of these two crises. We anticipate a sharp recovery as soon as the crisis resolves itself.”

Harrison said the current figures give a snapshot of the overall situation compared with the same period last year and they “are monitoring the situation on an ongoing basis”.

Tourism Australia boss Pippa Harrison.

A hoped for pick up in the domestic market is starting to be felt with bookings at minus 2 per cent last week, up from minus 7 per cent the week before.

But Harrison conceded that the year ahead was still an uncertainty.

“We are dealing with something that we just don’t know where it’s going to end,” she said.

The fallout from the coronavirus crisis is hitting some parts of the country harder than others with Tropical North Queensland and the Gold Coast feeling the most pain.

Speaking to The Guardian, Tourism Accommodation Australia boss Michael Johnson said some hotels are really struggling.

“It would be fair to say we’re currently in this hole, but we don’t know how deep this hole is,” he said.

“I would say there’s certainly hotels and properties in locations that are suffering that may find themselves [facing closure] because the funds just aren’t available.

“Cash-flow is king. There are hotels in bushfire-affected areas that have been losing money for four months in a row.”

The only light at the end of the tunnel was an uplift in domestic travellers, according to Johnson.

“Domestic travel is what will effectively get us through this crisis,” he said. “These hotels really do need Australians to support them and get up there and have a holiday.”