Perspective – March 2013

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Ian McMahon

Resilient domestic industry

TOURISM Research Australia’s latest National Visitor Survey paints a picture of a resilient domestic tourism industry managing to achieve growth in the face of an exodus of Australians overseas driven by the AUD exchange rate.

The survey found that domestic overnight visitor numbers were up 3.6 per cent with visitor nights up 4.1 per cent and spending up 3.4 per cent in 2012 compared to the previous year.

Analysis of the figures shows a softening demand for business travel and 7.4 per cent hike in VFR traffic, particularly along the east coast, driving growth in domestic overnight travel.

Overall holiday travel increased by 2.8 per cent with growth particularly strong in the Northern Territory and Queensland. An average spend of $294 per night by visitors to Melbourne will be seen to demonstrate the value of major events, business conventions, sport, cultural attractions, arts and concerts which are the backbone of the southern capital’s tourism industry.

It should (but almost certainly won’t) give the present Victorian Government pause for thought on its axing of the previous government’s plans for enlarging the city’s existing convention centre.

Tourism and Transport Forum (TTF) acting chief executive Trent Zimmerman summed up the message delivered by the latest survey as follows: “Australians spent $50 billion on overnight domestic travel and $18.2 billion on day trips in 2012.
“This expenditure supports more than 500,000 direct jobs in tourism across Australia, providing business opportunities and contributing 2.5 per cent of total GDP ($34.6 billion).”

Australian tourism visionary

BASIL Atkinson AM, who passed away earlier this year aged 88, was a pioneer of Australian tourism who played a major role on the world stage.

In January this year, shortly before his death, Tourism Australia named the executive meeting room at its Sydney head office in Sydney The Basil Atkinson Room, recognising that he initiated the study that persuaded the Federal Government to form TA’s predecessor, the Australian Tourist Commission in 1967. He became its first chief executive.

In a tribute that also covered Basil’s achievements as journalist, author and mediator, his friend of more than 50 years and former ATC colleague, Don Beresford, wrote: “His lasting legacy is a thriving tourism industry in Australia and internationally.

“When Basil entered the tourism industry, at the end of 1956, the year of the Melbourne Olympics, Australia attracted 66,000 international visitors.

“He revived international tourism to Australia by re-organising the national travel body, the Australian National Travel Association (ANTA); was involved in establishing the Australian Tourist Commission (ATC) and was its founding chief executive; was the youngest president (at age 39) of the then world tourism body, the International Union of Official Travel Organisations (IUOTO); and worked after that, for the United Nations to transform IUOTO to the present UN World Tourism Organisation (WTO).”