A peak tourism body says the industry must come up with new products and experiences in order to boost domestic holiday travel in light of alarmingly low new visitor figures.
According to figures from Tourism Research Australia for the December quarter of 2010, domestic holiday travel remains flat, with visitor nights and overnight spending just 1% higher than the same period in 2009.
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Overnight holiday travel – whereby tourists regularly move from one destination to another – was up just 0.3% yet it accounts for almost 60% of domestic tourism spending.
Visitor nights for the year were down by 1.3% while expenditure was up by 1.1%. Meanwhile, business travel grew by 5.1% but expenditure was down by 0.7%.
The figures come in light of recent news that Japan’s earthquake and tsunami will significantly weaken the Japanese tourism market, which is worth $1.5 billion annually to the Australian economy.
The forecast comes as a blow to already-embattled tourism operators, particularly in Queensland where the industry is struggling to rebuild and attract visitors in the wake of floods and Cyclone Yasi.
According to John Lee, chief executive of the Tourism and Transport Forum, there are “tens of thousands” of small businesspeople operating in the industry who are “literally only just surviving on a day-to-day basis”.
“Investing in new tourism infrastructure, products and experiences can play a key role in addressing this issue,” he says.
Lee says the forum has already put forward several suggestions in a desperate bid to prop up the industry.
“We’ve proposed a tax deduction of 50% for businesses who inject new capital into their operations and upgrade their bars and rooms so they continue to have a viable product for tourists,” he says.
“Especially with the strong dollar enticing record numbers of Australians to travel overseas, it’s vital that we offer unique and authentic experiences people can’t enjoy anywhere else.”
Lee says Australia can’t compete on price, so the industry has to focus on quality and premium services, and think outside the box.
“There needs to be more than reef, rock and beach; it is about the quality of the experience people have, so it’s about coming up with creative ideas,” he says.
Meanwhile, the Federal and Queensland governments recently unveiled details of a $10 million marketing campaign to promote Queensland locally and internationally.
Lee says marketing plays a huge part in changing people’s perceptions about the natural disasters that occurred in Queensland, which attracted media coverage around the world.
“Media coverage of these weather events left many people with the misperception that the entire state has been affected,” Lee says.
“This campaign will reassure key markets that this is not the case and leverage the existing brand for a short-term purpose, while the mix of media will ensure broad reach in those key markets.”