Tourism body calls for positive campaign to counter $4.5 billion booking shortfall

Tourism body calls for positive campaign to counter $4.5 billion booking shortfall

Softened bookings from international tourists due to the bushfires could have an estimated $4.5 billion impact on the industry. 

The main body representing the tourism export sector has called for a positive messaging campaign highlighting that Australia is 'open for business' as international tourism wanes.

The ongoing bushfires in Australia have softened tourism and resulted in potential travellers cancelling their trips according to the Australian Tourism Expert Council (ATEC).

The Council undertook a survey of its members, primarily Australian tourism businesses and inbound tour operators, with 70 per cent of respondents recording significant cancellations of travel to Australia by internationals.

ATEC managing director Peter Shelley (pictured) says the softened bookings from international tourists could have an estimated $4.5 billion impact on the industry.

"The value of cancellations on individual tourism businesses and inbound tour operators managing itineraries for travellers range from $5,000 to $500,000 with significant impacts seen across key inbound markets with US, UK and European inbound markets being the most impacted," says Shelley.

"International visitors are cancelling because of fears around air quality, safety and the impact fires have had on our tourism offering as well as a lack of certainty on how long it will take for us to recover, so the sooner we can communicate a strong, positive message, the better."

The bushfires have been a burden on the tourism industry, considering around 50 per cent of tourists from the UK, Europe, and the US come between December and the end of February.

"Timing is of the essence in implementing a campaign of positive images and messages to regain consumer confidence, especially in these markets, before this traditional booking window closes," says Shelley.

"There is no doubt our industry will take a hit, what we need is a clearly defined, well-resourced and expertly executed recovery strategy starting right now in order to stem the flow of cancellations and regain the confidence of intending international travellers."

ATEC has started a social media campaign under the hashtag #bushfirebounceback for businesses and products that are open for business and ready to welcome international visitors to Australia.

Tourism Australia had previously launched a UK-oriented tourism campaign starring Kylie Minogue, but it was suspended early last week out of sensitivity towards the victims of the bushfires. 

Earlier this week tourism operator Event Hospitality & Entertainment (ASX: EVT) reopened its summer operations at Thredbo after bushfires around the Kosciuszko National Park forced a closure at the beginning of the year.

"Whilst the impact of the temporary closure is not currently material to the Group's earnings, the Group expects a slow business recovery whilst the broader Park area remains closed," Event said.

"Thredbo will remain in daily contact with NSW RFS and NPWS to stay informed on bush fire activity and conditions."

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