With border closures and travel restrictions not looking at easing in the immediate future, Australia’s tourism industry is facing a challenging outlook.

After being one of the highest-performing countries during the early portion of 2021, Australia’s hotel occupancy has been on a rapid decline, according to STR – a global company which collects global performance data from accommodation properties to provide insights on market performance for providers.

STR regional manager for Pacific Matthew Burke said new and extended restrictions amid the latest outbreaks have undoubtedly impacted performance in the sector over the past weeks.

“Although winter is likely a precipitating factor for some of the decline, these new restrictions across state borders have meant that a lot of travel is simply not possible,” he told ANZPJ.

“We noted last month that forward-looking data around the country was trending downward, and that has been supported by the actualized figures.”

Mr Burke said markets with longer restrictions have seen occupancy levels below 20 per cent for the week of 26 July-1 August – the Sydney and Sydney-surrounding markets posted occupancy levels of 15.8 per cent and 15.6 per cent, respectively.

The extended lockdown in Sydney and new restrictions in Queensland and Victoria has also seen airline capacity shrink dramatically, with Qantas moving from operating at 100 per cent domestic in May, to now less than 40 per cent.

“In markets which are open, a renewed push to intrastate travel has commenced with tourism voucher campaigns launching in Tasmania and Northern Territory this week and additional may well be announced to help stimulate demand,” he said.

“For example, in Adelaide, Friday nights have the highest current occupancy on the books with the legacy voucher campaign providing that base stimulatory demand.”

Mr Burke said although up week over week, Adelaide (30.0 per cent), Melbourne (27.1 per cent) and Canberra (21.2 per cent) all came in at notably low levels.

“Canberra’s performance is very closely tied to Sydney’s openness and despite not having a case is feeling the performance impact,” he said.

Darwin posted Australia’s highest occupancy at 65.4 per cent, with Perth was second at 48.1 per cent.

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Australia's tourism industry

Mr Lee said Australia’s tourism, hospitality and retail industries are suffering from a massive shortage of staff.

Case study from Australia’s tourism industry

Trevor and Lilly Lee were living in Japan in the 1990’s and sharing a bottle of red when they developed a concept to deliver Asian market insights, and strategic solutions for the aviation, tourism, and retail industries.

In 2002, the husband and wife made this dream a reality with TravConsult – a boutique travel consultancy agency specialising in the Asian markets of China, India, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea.

Mr Lee said his view of the world is influenced from immersion in eastern and western cultures, having lived in both Indonesia for three years and Japan for eight.

“I first visited Asia in 1980 as an unworldly, naïve, young 18-year-old surfer with dreams of surfing the magical waves of Bali,” he told ANZPJ.

“Since then, I have fallen in love with Asia, its people, its smells, its sounds, its rhythm, its flaws, its unknown and its magic.

“I don’t think the western world truly appreciates how much the east looks up to it in so many ways. And Australia’s future is linked to Asia through its proximity and immigration.”

TravConsult’s unique expertise and experience has helped deliver practical solutions for leading international airports, government agencies, integrated resorts, shopping malls, tourism destinations and tourism attractions.

Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic forced the business to go on pause on March 30 last year, with several key projects cancelled.

“We could not get paid and had other projects put on hold, with no promise of re-launching. As we consult to the aviation, tourism and travel industries, it was not looking so good,” he said.

Mr Lee said when his wife’s family in China had learned of the couple’s situation, they suggested they export some local produce to Chinese consumers, having fallen in love with the natural and organic produce during a visit to Northern NSW.

“As we discovered the challenges of logistics and exporting, Lilly came up with the idea of creating a brand that would represent the local Northern Rivers region by partnering with passionate artisans – farmers, creators and lovers of the region, advocates of sustainable and ethical practices who give back to the environment and back to our communities,” he said.

This saw the couple launch Naturally Northern Rivers Australia in November 2020, with the long-term goal of helping the region become the next King Island or Barossa Valley.

“We wanted a place where the artisans and their amazing stories and produce form the base and starting point for firstly local tourism, then intra-state, inter-state and eventually international tourism. Business is growing steadily and we are learning so much,” he said.

TravConsult has since re-started, with the company delivering projects in the Gold Coast, Brisbane, Darwin, Melbourne and Sydney.

Trevor and Lilly will be giving case study about adapting to the challenges to the tourism sector at the Australian Property Institute’s National Property Conference, while a representative from STR will be an overview of statistics across Australia’s tourism industry.  

The NPC will be held at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre on from October 13 – 15. Registration is open and early bird prices are available until 17 August.