Recovery begins as hotel sector sees bookings return

Accor chief operating officer Simon McGrath.

The first signs of a recovery in the accommodation sector are emerging with hotels seeing bookings rise as travel restrictions ease.

Accor chief operating officer Simon McGrath said the easing of travel restrictions in New South Wales and Victoria made him “very optimistic about tourism over the next six to 12 months”.

“One of our main booking platforms would usually [pre-pandemic] bring in about $1.6 million in bookings a day. That got back down to $100,000, but this week it went up to $400,000 to $500,000 a day,” he said during a Tourism Australia webinar.

“We are now getting more bookings than cancellations. There’s a high level of interest in Queensland, in particular, Noosa. There has been a heavy focus on leisure. People are desperate to get away for a three-day break.”

McGrath said Australia’s low number of Covid-19 infections has boosted confidence in the public, with an appetite to travel still present.

“What you will see is that the world has recognised that Australia can manage its medical and health issues very well,” he said.

“Our healthy environment combined with a strong economy will bring more investment into this region. Lots of countries have been knocked off the investment list.”

McGrath also said he was confident the tourism sector could survive on domestic business while international travel was still off the cards.

“We should be able to make money from domestic travel,” he said. “International travel should only be the cream.”

Speaking to The Australian Financial Review, Leanne Harwood, managing director of InterContinental Hotels Group for Australasia and Japan, said they were seeing signs of domestic travel returning in Australia.

“Which is great because domestic is a hugely important part of IHG’s Australian business,” she said.

“We know that Aussies love to travel, so we expect that pent-up demand to result in some much-needed revenue for the hospitality industry – and we’ll be ready to welcome them with socially-distant, and therefore figurative, open arms.”