Impact Publications : MiceBTN_61
Page 56 • MICEBTN - NovEMBEr 2015 Falling in love with Australia again Peter Hook* says the latest arrival and departure figures suggest Australians (and internationals) are ready to fall in love with Australia all over again THE POINT at which the dollar’s value persuades people to ‘travel or not travel’ has always been a highly debated topic. When the UK pound was commanding three Australian dollars in the mid-2000s, the message certainly resonated with English tourists wanting to experience downunder, but who needed to justify the long journey. When the Australian dollar achieved parity with the US dollar some five years ago it proved a green light to Australi- ans flying across the Pacific. The $A has since fallen from a height of US$1.10 to its current level around US$0.70 – $0.72, but it has taken considerably longer for the arrival/departure trends to respond. However, I think that we can now say that we have reached a point whereby the level of the Aussie dollar is signifi- cantly affecting travel trends. The trend has been occurring for a number of months, but the ABS Septem- ber figures were even more emphatic than previous months, with short term visitor arrivals rising 11 per cent to 637,100, in September, the highest level on record. The annual figure for arrivals increased to 7,254,200, also a record high, up 458,500 in just a year. On the other side of the ledger, out- bound travel by Australians has slowed considerably from double-digit increas- es just a few years ago to 2.3 per cent growth in September (and 3.2 per cent growth in travel to the USA). For travellers contemplating a major overseas trip, it usually takes two years from decision to completion, and with more and more travellers returning saying that their Aussie dollar didn’t go all that far, the ripple effect is clearly gaining momentum. The flip side of the dollar’s fall should be a surge in domestic travel, in particu- lar to longer-haul destinations that suf- fered from the combination of reduced international visitation and stuttering domestic travel, as people opted to trav- el overseas on the back of the stronger dollar. Destinations such as the Kimberley, Far North Queensland and Kakadu have all struggled in the past decade, but are now in a good position to relive their glory days. For Kakadu, in particular, they have struggled because the precious – and short – dry season has coincided with massive resource infrastructure projects in Darwin that saw hotel rates rise to A$400 - A$500 a night, leaving tourists transiting through the city out in the cold. It significantly affected local and international travel, and while prices were normal once tourists got out of Darwin, most travellers needed to at least transit in the NT capital and it made packages prohibitive. Fortunately, the resource projects have slowed down and new accommo- dation opened. It was too late for 2015, but 2016 is looking very positive. Next year is the 30th anniversary of the Croc- odile Dundee film, which at the time put Australia’s outback (especially Kakadu) and larrikin spirit on the international map. Fortunately, it coincided with a strong US dollar and increased air capacity...and the Americans and Europeans came in their droves. Suddenly the Clintons were taking up residence in Port Douglas, Brit- ain’s Lord McAlpine was transforming Broome, the Crocodile Hotel was being built in Kakadu, and Ayers Rock Resort appeared. The Japanese market also boomed at this time and that led to a massive expansion in hotel development, on a scale that is just about to be replicated across Australia. Over 70 hotels are ei- ther under construction or in advanced stages of planning and – crucially – Gov- ernments have finally understood that tourism is not just a fad, but a genuine and sustainable industry. Tourism Research Australia estimated that we could achieve 10 million arrivals by 2023-24, but before we all put our feet up and just wait for the dollars to roll in, there is vast competition out there and Australian tourism needs to invest considerably to become ‘inter- national ready’. Yes, things are looking good, but TRA has also estimated the industry will need 123,000 new workers, including 60,000 skilled workers, and that will mean massive investment in training and development, along with liberalisation of temporary skilled migra- tion visas. *Peter Hook is principal of Hook Communications, which provides media services to organisations such as Kakadu Tourism, Tourism Accommodation Australia and the Sunshine Coast. Not t o be missed, Mona - the Museum of Old and New Art - in Hobar t, Tasmania. It is Australia’s largest private museum and houses a diverse privat e collection that ranges from ancient Egyptian mummies to some of the world’s most infamous and thought-provoking contemporary art.