CATO view: Successful despite the politicians

Dennis Bunnik, chairman Council of Australian Tour Operators

Successful Despite the Politicians

Successful business owners know not to rely on politicians when it comes to the success of their business. In fact, here in South Australia it is very much the case that businesses that do well do so in spite of the policies inflicted upon us by our state MPs!

But what happens when politics starts to impact on our industry on a much wider, global scale? What happens when politicians start to actively work against our industry by creating the divisions and fears that we work so hard to overcome?

Unfortunately that seems to be the new normal. The jury is still out on exactly how big the Trump Slump will be in terms of international travel to the USA however travel agencies are reporting a significant drop in demand.

Outbound travel from the USA is also likely to be impacted if Americans start to feel that they are likely to become bigger terrorist targets due to the policies of their government.

A similar thing happened with the Russian market in 2014-15. When Russia annexed Crimea, and was blamed when MH17 was shot down there was an immediate drop in demand from Australians wanting to visit Russia. At the same time many Russians, heeding Putin’s rhetoric, stopped travelling. This had a significant impact on many tourism economies including in places like Thailand, Sri Lanka, Turkey and Egypt which rely heavily on Russian tourists.

So what’s the solution? Unfortunately there is no quick fix. Instead we must continue to do what we do well — creating incredible experiences for our clients that allow them to see the real beauty of this planet and its people. By doing so we help to break down the barriers that politicians build and we help make this world a better place.

For those destinations and operators in the middle of it all this is not an easy task. But the industry is strong and we stick together. A good example of this is Greece which suffered terribly as a result of the financial crisis and European politics. However the Greek tourism industry, including Australian-based Greek specialists, persevered through these challenges and is now seeing strong growth.

On 14 July a senior member of the Greek Ministry of Tourism will be speaking at the CATO AGM Dinner at the National Maritime Museum. They will have an interesting tale to tell and I’m sure there will be learning for us all. The night will be a Greek feast and is being sponsored by visiting Greek wine makers. This is one CATO meeting you won’t want to miss. Non-CATO members are also invited and bookings can be made by contacting Gina Dounis at AFTA — gina@afta.com.au

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