International visitors are the primary income driver for so many Australian businesses. And another 12 months of closed borders means all hopes are pinned on domestic tourism.
State border closures over the festive and summer high season further stymied any rescue domestic tourism might deliver for hungry tourism businesses.
COVID outbreaks and subsequent border closures have crippled the travel sector so much so that the entire industry is estimated to have lost almost $7 billion from Christmas Eve to the end of January.
But not all hope has been lost for the tourism industry.
It’s expected thousands of people who aren’t needed at work on Australia Day on Tuesday will take off Monday to make it a four-day weekend.
The long public holiday has reignited the push to get Australians interested again in venturing beyond the confines of their homes.
“Sadly, over many months now, our industry organisation and other national tourism leaders have sounded like a broken record on this issue,” said Simon Westaway, executive director of the Australian Tourism Industry Council.
More losses to come
If you’ve ever needed the excuse to take a long weekend away, this is the best one yet.
Research, commissioned by the Tourism and Transport Forum, found Australia’s tourism industry lost out on $6.8 billion between December 24 and January 31.
It predicts that 320,000 people will potentially lose their jobs by September, due to the lack of international visitors and continuing uncertainty over domestic borders.
New South Wales is expected to suffer the most of any other state or territory, with researchers predicting 118,000 jobs will be lost come September.
Researchers expect Victoria will take the second biggest hit to employment, followed by Queensland.
They estimate that by September, 85,300 Victorians will have lost their job and another 59,700 Queenslanders will be out of work.
Their findings come as NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian this week pleaded with her counterparts in Victoria and Queensland to keep open their interstate borders, which are currently closed to many in Greater Sydney.
Residents of some areas of the Harbour City remain locked out of those states, while Western Australia’s hard border with all of NSW remains in place.
The NSW border was closed to Victorians for four months at the height of the southern state’s COVID-19 second wave, while Victoria introduced hard border arrangements after Sydney’s Northern Beaches outbreak.
Meanwhile, WA has remained locked off to eastern states for most of the pandemic.
Key message: Travel locally
The $6.8 billion estimated loss to the tourism industry is not simply the result of Australia banning overseas travel for the foreseeable future.
Speaking to The New Daily, Mr Westaway said struggling tour operators and small businesses in the industry have continued to suffer significant financial losses due to state authorities making interstate travel almost impossible.
For example, the Andrews’ government’s decision to close the NSW-Victorian border over New Year’s Eve and 2021 meant many holidaying in southern NSW had to make a mad dash to cross the border.
That meant those small businesses that had full bookings for that time of year had zero visitors again, Mr Westaway said.
Come this long weekend, he is encouraging people to get out into their local environment, be it a day trip, an overnight stay or catching up with friends and relatives.
Although it won’t make up for the lack of interstate travel and the absence of international travel.
“It all adds to the economic pie,” Mr Westaway said.
“That’s why the industry continues to engage vigorously with governments around the need for sustainable support.
“So that we as a very sustainable industry in normal times can get to the other side to continue to do what we do because we employ one in 12 working Australians.”