Adventurous Australians are taking a renewed interest in camping as international border closures force would-be travellers to holiday locally.
Almost a week after Qantas said it was unlikely to resume international flights until July 2021, online retailer Payday Deals has published research showing a significant spike in outdoor equipment sales.
The online marketplace said sales in this area were up 49 per cent in July and August compared to the June quarter – with demand jumping most in the states hardest hit by the virus.
“Instead of going interstate or overseas, it’s clear people have decided to holiday intrastate,” said Payday Deals CEO Rojie Tadros.
“With the borders closed, and continued uncertainty over travel arrangements, our data shows that there’s a conscious effort to stay local and holiday within our own regions, which is great to see.”
Mr Tadros said tents, swags, gas heaters and outdoor basins were among the most sought-after items on PayDay Deals.
And a similar trend has been noticed elsewhere.
National outdoors (and puffer jacket) chain Kathmandu told The New Daily it had seen an uptick in camping gear sales, while van sharing platform Camplify said it had experienced a 125 per cent jump in winter camper holidays, as people sought ways to socially distance while travelling.
But the overall picture for the tourism industry is still worrying.
Data from Commonwealth Bank, for example, shows Australians spent between 7 and 10 per cent less on travel and accommodation in the first three weeks of August than during the same time last year.
City dwellers ‘exploring their own backyard’
Accommodation Association of Australia (AAA) CEO Dean Long said Australia’s renewed camping interest will be a boon for regional areas.
Modelling by the AAA found 20 per cent of people planning to take a holiday overseas in the next year would instead spend that money on domestic travel – and a vast majority of that will be spent outside capital cities for two key reasons.
Firstly, cities have more dense populations, so many travellers will avoid them during the tail end of a pandemic.
And secondly, government restrictions have closed or negatively impacted the attractions that make cities so appealing – namely concerts, sporting events and restaurants.
Instead, city slickers will look to regional Australia to trade crowded streets for wineries and hiking trails.
“If you’re a vineyard in a good wine region and can offer small group tours that keep people safe and abide by the COVID-safe plan, you’ll have a fantastic offer in the marketplace,” Mr Long said.
Longer recovery for city hotels
The situation is more challenging in the city, Mr Long said, with CBD hotel occupancy rates falling from between 80 and 90 per cent to roughly 20 per cent.
More than 40 per cent of these bookings come from international travellers who are no longer able to enter the country.
And bookings from local travellers are reliant on major events and mass gatherings – neither of which can go ahead under current COVID restrictions.
“It’s going to be difficult for them,” Mr Long said.
“They’re going to have to adjust.”