Covid-19 is just the latest in a series of disastrous circumstances for Australia's tourism sector and the Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) sees no end in sight.
After three months of constant hits on the industry, beginning in January with the bushfires and now the global outbreak of Covid-19, ATEC managing director Peter Shelley says the international visitor numbers for January, released today, only paint a small picture of the widescale collapse of the sector.
"Our industry has borne the brunt of two exceptional setbacks and the international visitor numbers for January, released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) today, only provide a glimpse of where our industry is falling from," says Shelley.
Of particular concern is the flatlining of Australia's international visitor income.
Over the last decade international visitor income has been growing at an incredible rate, from just over $20 billion to well over $45 billion in 2019.
Today's ABS arrivals data revealed a negligible increase on last year's figures and is what appears to be the lowest growth rate for many years.
"With yesterday's announcement of isolation measures for all new arrivals to Australia, our inbound tourism industry has effectively been shut down," says Shelley.
"No international visitors means all travel distributors, and many tourism suppliers, have no business and are unlikely to have any business in the near future. This comes right on the back of a massive decline in our industry that came as a result of January's bushfires."
"The damage to our inbound tourism sector across Australia will deliver a significant blow to Australia's economy and, with more than 600,000 people employed in tourism jobs, that will have a dramatic flow on to employment.
Shelley has called on the federal government to place the tourism at the heart of its response to resuscitating the national economy.
"We know the Government is aware of our predicament and that tourism is not alone in the crisis but what we need to do is ensure the businesses at the heart of our industry can survive the next few months and help Australia get back on its feet.
"Crucial to this will be the Government's support in helping our inbound travel distributors to keep their business afloat, as this will be critical to maintaining Australia's tourism ecosystem, without which our export tourism markets will struggle to recover."
Updated at 2:20pm AEDT on 16 March 2020.
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