Australia’s international travel ban will strike a blow to the tourism sector come February, as thousands of tourists from China will be unable to venture Down Under for Chinese New Year.
Tourism Accommodation Australia chief executive Michael Johnson says Chinese New Year, which this year falls on February 12, is a ‘peak time’ for Australian cities and hotels, which will be gravely affected without incoming Chinese travellers.
“While our international borders remain closed, we can’t expect to see that uplift. So definitely, we’ll be doing it tough this February,” Johnson tells SmartCompany.
Johnson, who heads the national body for five-, four- and three-star hotels, motels and apartments, says the destinations that will be the hardest hit include cities such as Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, as well as other major tourism hubs including Cairns and the Gold Coast.
While domestic travel has been what Johnson calls the accommodation industry’s ‘saving grace’ throughout the pandemic, Sydney has been significantly hit by the recent outbreaks of COVID-19 cases.
“Due to the new clusters in the Northern Beaches and Berala, and the border closures that have effectively happened since then, Sydney hotels are certainly suffering at the moment,” Johnson says.
Not only has interstate travel restrictions taken a swipe at domestic travel in Sydney, but Johnson says the disruption has caused potential travellers to lose confidence when planning their holidays.
“People will be reluctant to book and as such we will see this very, very slow recovery until we can get that natural flow of domestic tourism happening,” Johnson says.
The ban on international travel over Chinese New Year and the effects of interstate border restrictions have not affected all businesses equally, with hotels in some cities operating at a much higher capacity than others.
“For example, in Western Australia and in the Northern Territory, they’re doing extremely well, whereas if you look to New South Wales, again we’ve got a situation where only our regional areas are doing very well,” Johnson says.
As economic recovery from the pandemic improves, Johnson says the first game-changer for the industry will be the travel bubble with New Zealand and other low-risk destinations such as the Pacific Islands and Taiwan.
“That will give us the opportunity to fine-tune how we do open up internationally,” Johnson says.
And of course, the second game-changer is the roll-out of the vaccine both in Australia and globally.
“We can certainly hope to see that once the vaccine is rolled out that we’ll start to see more travel, and let’s hope that’s sooner than later.”