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New figures confirm tough times ahead for Australian Tourism

The Australian tourism industry had a tough first quarter, with international arrivals in February and March down compared to 2002…

The Australian tourism industry had a tough first quarter, with international arrivals in February and March down compared to 2002, according to new figures released, Australian Tourist Commission (ATC) Managing Director, Ken Boundy said.

Despite a stronger start to the year, with international visitor arrivals for January up by 5 per cent, arrivals for February and March* declined by two per cent and 11 per cent respectively, signalling the start of a tough period for the sector, Mr Boundy said.

This equates to around 40,000 less international visitor arrivals in the first three months of the year.

The decline in February can largely be attributed to the looming conflict in Iraq and the uncertainty this created for travellers, particularly for those with travel plans to long haul destinations such as Australia. In addition, the change in timing of Chinese New Year shifted some arrivals from February to January.

Unfortunately, the worst is yet to come for the industry, with arrivals to Australia during the second quarter of 2003 to be hit by the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). SARS has further compounded a series of events, which have troubled the sector over the past 18 months beginning with September 11 and Ansett`s collapse.

The impact of SARS on Australian tourism escalates as consumers are continuing to delay or cancel travel plans and are reluctant to make or confirm holiday bookings. While the conflict in Iraq dented consumer confidence, SARS has had a more immediate impact, and it is uncertain how long this will continue to affect the sector.

Early indications suggest that visitor arrivals during April and May will be down by around 20 per cent compared to last year, with SARS affected countries in Asia potentially falling by more than 30 per cent.

In addition, operators in key markets are indicating that forward bookings are down by 30 per cent on previous years.

European markets, including Germany and France, are also impacted by SARS as travellers are reluctant to travel to Australia due to stopovers in Asia.

Mr Boundy said the ATC would continue to monitor consumer sentiment to holidaying overseas and would introduce new advertising campaigns to stimulate travel as countries began to show signs of recovery.

Both New Zealand and Japan offer opportunities for Australian tourism, as people from both countries look for destinations which are perceived as safe and near-by, he said. The ATC is set to launch new campaigns in both markets to capitalise on these opportunities.

We will continue to develop new strategies in all our markets to minimise the impact of recent events on tourism businesses across Australia.

* The ATC indicated that the March result is a preliminary estimate and that it will be revised when final data is available.

Co-Founder & Chief Editor - TravelDailyNews Media Network | + Articles

Vicky is the co-founder of TravelDailyNews Media Network where she is the Editor-in Chief. She is also responsible for the daily operation and the financial policy. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Tourism Business Administration from the Technical University of Athens and a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Wales. She has many years of both academic and industrial experience within the travel industry. She has written/edited numerous articles in various tourism magazines.