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TTF report suggests more than a third of Australia’s tourism businesses could close in the coming months

TTF report suggests more than a third of Australia’s tourism businesses could close in the coming months
October 8, 2021

More than a third of Australia's tourism businesses fear they might be forced to close within the next three months, according to newly released research undertaken by Tourism and Transport Forum Australia (TTF).

Impacted by lockdowns and uncertainty over the status of domestic and international borders, the national survey of over 500 businesses - from both tourism and other sectors - conducted by Newgate Research for TTF, paints a grim picture of the prevailing sentiment among tourism dependent businesses compared to other industries after what has effectively been an 18 month lockdown for the nation’s once lucrative visitor economy.

The research reveals over four in 10 (41%) of tourism exposed business feel business will get worse over the next three months, while almost a third (29%) believe their outlook is bleak for at least the next 12 months.

It also shows that 70% of tourism businesses surveyed are exploring other activities or revenue streams, considering reducing staff hours (69%) or scaling down their operations (62%) over next three months.

With 20% of respondents planning plan to take even more drastic action and shut their doors and another 10% looking to sell their businesses, TTF Chief Executive, Margy Osmond advised “tourism business have made it clear that as other sectors recover, they still foresee a challenging period ahead not only in the short term but for the next year or more.

“It’s not like we are expecting an ‘open Sesame’ moment where everything returns to normal and travel hesitancy will linger for both the leisure and corporate travel markets as long as Australians feel they are at the mercy of policymakers playing border ‘roulette’ and while quarantine requirements remain in place.

“In the long term, there is a real fear that major and high yield inbound markets outside of the US and UK, such as Asia and parts of Europe, will remain directly shut off to Australia for some time, until they are deemed as safe countries by the Federal Government and quarantine free travel opens up for double vaccinated tourists.

“Many internationally reliant tourism operations in places like Cairns and Uluru, in tourism growth states like South Australia and Tasmania and in the struggling CBDs of Melbourne and Sydney will simply be unable to pivot their products and offerings to save their businesses and will need further Government support.

“It will take a combination of concerted and strategic international engagement and investment by State and Federal Governments to reattract key aviation routes while at the same time providing targeted financial support for internationally reliant tourism operators so that they can stay afloat during this time.

“TTF will continue to raise this issue as a priority with governments so that tourism does not become the collateral damage of the Australian economy in the wake of the post COVID economic recovery.”

The report also advised that operators say it will take 12 to 24 months before international visitation returns to normal.

Reporting on the TTF survey, the ABC has cited Great Barrier Reef tourism operators as having endured another school holidays without visitors from their biggest domestic markets in NSW and Victoria.

Steve Edmondson from Sailaway Port Douglas wants to hang on to skilled staff to keep his business ready for borders to reopen.

Edmondson told the ABC that keeping valuable staff sometimes meant running near-empty excursions on the company’s year-round sunset and snorkelling tours.

Edmondson noted “we have 20 trips a week, we have 25 staff that are operating trips each day, no matter what it costs

"We need to be positioned for 2022."

In NSW, Scenic World Blue Mountains is looking to reopen in the coming weeks but where the attraction usually caters primarily for international and interstate tourists, it will only be Sydneysiders visiting at first.

Fearing that it could be years before they are back to where they were pre-COVID, Anthea Hammon, Managing Director at Scenic World Blue Mountains, commented “we think it will still be at least 12 to 24 months before we get our international visitation back up where it was - around 600,000 visitors a year."

Hammon believes that as long as quarantine is part of travel requirements, foreign tourists will not be interested, adding “there won't be demand for Australia until there's no quarantine

"So that is a major, major factor to getting international business back into the country."

Images: Heron Island on the Great Barrier Reef (top), TTF Chief Executive, Margy Osmond (middle) and Anthea Hammon, Managing Director at Scenic World Blue Mountains (below).

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