Another View – October 2011
Let’s lighten up folks. After all tourism is supposed to be fun
By Martin Kelly, travel industry commentator
TOURISM has become a very serious business. I know this because older men in dark suits now tell me it is so.
Instead of a smiling Lara Bingle asking “where the bloody hell are you?”, we have Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson imploring us to holiday at home, his message reinforced by the looming presence of Geoff Dixon and Andrew McEvoy from Tourism Australia.
They are all wearing suits and look like they really need a holiday. Instead they are trying to sell us one. Perhaps they should relax and stop trying to reprise the 1980s because the industry is being driven by long-term trends they have absolutely no control over.
The big one of course is that more Australians are travelling overseas, the strong Australian dollar said to be the major driver. This implies that when the dollar decreases in value, the trend will slow – perhaps even reverse. I disagree. The trend toward international travel over domestic holidays has been in place for at least the past decade. For many of those years the dollar was weak.
A much more important driver has been better, cheaper and more frequent international air services – and the simple fact that many Australians believe an overseas holiday is better value.
Another key trend is that more Australians are flying domestically but staying away for less time.
In the year to July 2011 Australian airlines carried a record 55 million passengers on more than 600,000 flights – an increase of more than five per cent year on year.
Tourism Research Australia (TRA)statistics also show an increase in domestic travel over the same period with the number of overnight trips taken by Australians reaching 68.9 million, four per cent higher than the previous 12 months.
Yet their trips were shorter – an average of around 3.77 nights. Just two per cent of Australians went on a domestic holiday of 15 nights or more. In contrast, the average time spent by an Australian on an international break was 20 nights.
Domestic spending remained flat, propped up by the corporate sector which – like the economy – is travelling pretty well. The TRA research shows that leisure spend dropped four per cent over the 12 months to $21 billion.
You’ve got to go with the trend toward short breaks. Taking a holiday has become part of Australian life. As Flight Centre’s Graham Turner said: “A holiday is not really considered discretionary spending. Taking time out for one or two extended breaks in Australia or overseas during a long working year is an annual ritual.” (travelBulletin, July)
Hence there is a great opportunity to package and promote Australian travel in a way that appeals to the modern domestic consumer – essenti-ally short, sharp value breaks and experiences – rather than trying to sell them on something they don’t want.
And lighten up – tourism is supposed to be fun.
• This is an abridged version of a column that first appeared in The Weekend Australian where Martin Kelly writes a weekly column in the Commercial Property section called “Checking In”. Kelly also publishes TravelTrends.biz and runs the TRAVELtech and No Vacancy conferences. firstname.lastname@example.org