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Helen Marano, Vice President of Gov’t and Industry Affairs, World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) being interviewed during the ITF's Consultation Day with International Organisations in preparation for the 2015 SummitAustralia’s tourism industry continues to struggle as it marks 12 months of open borders, while other parts of the world have seen a strong resurgence in the travel sector. The COVID-19 pandemic brought $45 billion of tourism exports to a halt in the country. Despite the return of international travel, inbound visitor numbers to Australia remain slow and far below their peak.

ATEC Managing Director Peter Shelley stated that the slow recovery of international visitor numbers has resulted in less revenue for tourism businesses and the government and limited industry growth. The inbound tourism sector could contribute significantly to the country’s economy, and returning to the market could be the solution.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics’ arrival numbers for December 2022 indicates that Australia’s international visitors are still down by 40% compared to December 2019. Last year, the Federal Labor Government pledged a $10 million fund to help Australian tourism exporters return to the market. Still, the fund remains undelivered, with no word on when it will materialize.

Many small to medium-sized businesses have limited resources to restart, and the slow recovery is taking longer than for competitors in the northern hemisphere and Africa. Europe has already recovered to 87% of its pre-pandemic capacity. In contrast, Australia has a long way to go, making it doubly challenging for the industry as the country is a long-haul and more complex destination, which makes it difficult to convert international holidaymakers.

Mr Shelley emphasized that Australia’s sluggish return highlights the need for more robust government investment in re-establishing its brand on the world stage. The COVID-19 pandemic not only brought Australia’s tourism exports to a halt but also impacted over 50 years of trusted trade relationships and engagement. With some support, small to medium-sized businesses could help bring Australia back to full capacity much sooner than 2025.

Inbound tourism faces two significant challenges: flights and staffing. However, the country still has an excellent reputation globally, and international visitors are keen on Australia. Finding the key to unlocking this opportunity is crucial for the industry to recover.

The COVID-19 pandemic has altered the travel landscape, and Australia’s tourism industry is among the most affected sectors. To revive the sector, the Australian Government needs to invest more in the industry to re-establish its brand on the world stage. With vaccinations becoming more widely available, creating an environment that encourages international visitors to return to Australia is crucial.

Australia’s tourism industry must act swiftly to recover fully as the world moves towards recovery. The country has some of the world’s most desirable destinations, and with suitable investment and support, it can regain its position as a top global tourist destination. The industry needs a robust and coordinated plan to inspire confidence in the tourism sector, promoting international travel to the country.




Written by: Stephen Peters