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Slow recovery for Australian Tourism continues

New figures released last week confirm Australia is yet to recover from the declines in…

New figures released last week confirm Australia is yet to recover from the declines in international tourists experienced in the first six months of this year, Australian Tourist Commission (ATC) Managing Director, Ken Boundy said.

Today`s figures indicate that the tourism industry continued to recover in July, with a slight decline of one per cent in international visitors compared to July 2002, Mr Boundy said. This follows a nine per cent drop in June, and a 21 per cent fall in May.

While the recovery trend continues, the number of inbound visitors to Australia in July 2003 has still not returned to July 2001 figures (a seven per cent fall in arrivals).

Recovery in tourist traffic is not expected to be uniform and feedback from operators indicates that visitors from markets in Europe and Asia will continue to remain patchy in August and September.

Arrivals for the seven months to July were down by seven per cent compared to the same period last year – a difference of 188,000 international visitors.

Key tourism markets such as New Zealand (up 18.3 per cent compared to July 2002), United Kingdom (up 9.6 per cent) and Germany (up 17.9 per cent) showed significant increases in visitor arrivals in July, along with some markets in Asia including Korea (up 25.4 per cent) and Malaysia (up 32.3 per cent).

The growth is attributed to travellers resuming postponed holiday plans and consumers taking advantage of great value holiday packages which were released to stimulate bookings. It is also a result of ATC marketing campaigns, launched in May and June in key markets, which immediately generated around 75,000 holiday bookings to Australia.

The impact of SARS continued to affect visitor arrivals from Hong Kong (down 31.6 per cent) and China (down by 41.5 per cent) in July and full recovery is not expected until the last quarter of the year.

Visitor arrivals from Japan were down by 26.3 per cent in July 2003, however this is an improvement on previous months, with visitor numbers dropping by 41 per cent in June and 42 per cent in May. Consumer confidence has not fully recovered and Japanese travellers remain reluctant to holiday overseas. However, Australia is performing stronger than other competitor destinations such as Hawaii and the mainland US.

Visitor arrivals from the US declined in July (down one per cent) and the ATC is looking to boost holiday bookings to Australia in coming months with the launch of a new marketing campaign earlier this week.

Mr Boundy said next month`s Rugby World Cup would provide some good news for the tourism industry, in an otherwise tough year.

Forty thousand international visitors will be travelling to Australia for the tournament, spending 500,000 visitor nights and injecting $300 million in to the economy, he said.

While this will not make up the shortfall in overseas visitors to Australia in the last seven months, it will provide a boost to the economies of the 10 match cities.

With the international sporting media focused on Australia and four billion people expected to watch the tournament, it provides a great opportunity to promote Australia as a tourism destination. The ATC is working with the official broadcasters to maximise the exposure and flow-on tourism benefits for the country.

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