ATEC View – Strong future awaits as the short-term recovery continues

Tourism businesses have continually moved with the flow of a changing visitor marketplace.

Peter Shelley, Managing Director, ATEC

By Peter Shelley, Managing Director, Australian Tourism Export Council

As ATEC celebrates 50 years of inbound tourism, the sector has changed markedly. From where we look to as our major export markets, the relevance of a globalised economic and health environment, and the inextricable connection between sustainability, the environment, cultural heritage and the success of our industry – tourism businesses have continually moved with the flow of a changing visitor marketplace. 

Each month we eagerly look forward to the Australian Bureau of Statistics release of the latest arrivals and departures data with hope that it will show positive signs of the rebuild of our visitor numbers. So far this year that rebuild has been slow going, with inbound holiday maker numbers still at around 50 per cent year-on-year when we compare to the same period in 2019. While we remain confident of further improvement, we also need to look at recalibrating what a ‘full tourism recovery’ might look like.

With two major Federal Government strategic policy reviews underway, Australia’s tourism industry has an opportunity to change some of the parameters which will affect the success of the industry over coming decades. This includes where we see our future market opportunities, how we access them and what we prioritise as desirable factors. 

The first, and most prominent of these reviews is the Aviation White Paper which will set the long-term policies to guide growth of the aviation sector. Clearly this has a critical impact on our sector given almost all inbound tourism happens via aviation channels.

What is important for inbound tourism is ensuring the White Paper has a forward-looking tourism agenda which leaves space for the aviation sector to move in anticipation of new growth markets and establish a policy framework which is supportive of growth for all the sectors which rely on aviation services. 

The other key area of policy development of importance to tourism is the South-East Asia Economic Strategy. It clearly identifies the vast tourism opportunity in our region with 181 million Southeast Asians due to be travelling each year by 2040.

Naturally Australia is well placed to meet that demand and we must look at the policy settings which will support this opportunity. While this year we are expected to welcome about 3.8 per cent of these visitors, our share of this market will only grow with access and services which are aligned with demand.

But in the end we may never have perfect alignment and the cost of getting here may never revert to pre-covid levels.  Given we have already invested in building our brand to appeal to a high yield visitor, investing further in building on this direction may prove to be critical to our future success.   

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