Extra cash savings weren’t the only thing Australians built up during the pandemic.
New research from Roy Morgan shows workers have accrued a record 175 million days in annual leave entitlements – up 15.7 per cent on pre-pandemic levels – after international border closures forced them to cancel their overseas holidays.
More than 6.6 million Australians are sitting on at least two weeks of unused annual leave and about 1.37 million have more than seven weeks’, according to the Roy Morgan data.
And with international borders set to remain shut for at least another year, tourism operators are keen for Australians to cash in on the extra leave and take a holiday.
Australian Tourism Industry Council executive director Simon Westaway said the industry wanted to reverse the long-running trend of Australians taking long trips overseas but only short trips domestically.
“Obviously, with the state of our international borders, and the inability to go overseas, we really encourage people to help the Australian tourism industry get back on its feet and to holiday at home,” Mr Westaway said.
He invited Australians to take advantage of midweek deals in capital cities and off-peak travel experiences around the country.
“Experiencing some of the parts of our country when the weather is slightly different is not necessarily making it a worse experience,” Mr Westaway told The New Daily.
“We’re a big country and you can see a lot of it. You don’t necessarily have to do it at peak time. You can do it cost effectively.”
Encouraging Australians to explore their own backyards is a key priority of the federal government’s as it seeks to “lock in” our economic recovery.
In March it announced it would subsidise more than 800,000 half-priced airfares in a bid to help local tourism operators weather the effects of extended border closures.
And it has also spent $9 million on a ‘big holiday’ campaign featuring comedian Hamish Blake.
Mr Westaway said the marketing campaign was a welcome initiative and noted the caravan industry was booming.
“A lot more Australians are traveling by caravan and camping more than ever before,” he said.
“And we’re seeing a lot of older Australians taking long trips around the country.”
Although Australia’s capital cities are struggling without a steady influx of international tourists, Mr Westaway said locals were increasingly making trips to Queensland, South Australia and regional parts of Victoria and New South Wales.
And there’s some data to support this.
Melbourne-based Webjet told shareholders on Wednesday that domestic Australian bookings on its website had recovered to 95 per cent of pre-COVID levels in April.
And government data shows Australians were quick to snap up the more than 800,000 half-price airfares being subsidised by the federal government.
As of May 13, only 137,000 of the original batch of airfares were still up for grabs, after people rushed to pick up cheap tickets to the Gold Coast, Cairns and Adelaide.
“The issue is people aren’t revisiting the capital cities in the volumes that they once were,” he said.
“Australians have just got to take advantage of the deals.
“There’s a lot of really good deals going – capital cities are trying hard to attract more business and there’s some good airfare deals around now.”