Australians will just stop booking travel

Noble Horvath

“We’ll see a drop again with the news out of Tasmania this week and the ongoing closure of WA, but to be honest there’s hardly any more room to move. You can’t get much closer to zero than almost zero.” His warning came as well-known youth travel brand STA Travel […]

“We’ll see a drop again with the news out of Tasmania this week and the ongoing closure of WA, but to be honest there’s hardly any more room to move. You can’t get much closer to zero than almost zero.”

His warning came as well-known youth travel brand STA Travel hit the wall, with its Swiss parent company declaring bankruptcy. It flagged day-to-day operations in Australia would continue.

Lack of planning at a government level is what’s really hurting us. All we’re asking for is a clear, logical six-month plan.

— Flight Centre CEO Graham Turner

Flight Centre is already running at less than 30 per cent of its normal pre-COVID-19 staffing levels.

“We can’t cut the business much more and stay operational, but certainly things won’t improve until they bring back domestic travel,” Mr Turner said.

“Lack of planning at a government level is what’s really hurting us. All we’re asking for is a clear, logical six-month plan. At the moment, there’s no logic or consistency.

“We’re told we’re all meant to be flattening the curve so hospitals can cope with patients. But it looks much more like some state governments, without telling their constituents or being honest about it, are in actual truth pursuing a policy of elimination and ‘wait for global eradication’.”

Australia – the world’s seventh-largest country (by area) – has probably never felt so small as we contemplate yet another school holiday break spent in the backyard.

But there was some good news this week. Interstate travel might remain a train wreck, but intrastate tourism appears to be thriving, with the exception of Victoria.

In June, Tourism Australia partnered with Luxury Escapes’ booking platform on a multi-channel, destination-focused Australian travel campaign on the back of its “Holiday Here This Year” campaign.

Broome is one of the most frequently booked regional Australian destinations. But no-one outside WA is likely to see it this side of Christmas. 

The first phase of the campaign generated nearly 47,000 room nights in three weeks, and bookings for regional destinations made up 42 per cent of total bookings. There were strong results for many bushfire-affected regions, including the Blue Mountains and Snowy Mountains in NSW, South Australia’s Barossa Valley and the ACT.

Product views on Luxury Escapes’ site for intrastate travel were up 180 per cent compared with the 12-month average, while interstate product views were up 100 per cent.

Luxury Escapes named Broome, Sydney, Hamilton Island, Coffs Harbour and Perth as the top five destinations booked over the past few weeks.

“Our consumer research shows that more than half of Australian travellers are keen to travel or are considering travel around Australia once they can,” Tourism Australia managing director Phillipa Harrison said.

“Although some travel restrictions remain in place around the country, we need to continue to encourage those who have the means to, to book a holiday or tourism experience, as the recovery of our industry hinges on Australians getting out and exploring their own wonderful country.”

They are hopeful words, but a quick look at the WA government’s website offers another dampener.

The most common query on its frequently asked questions is: “Will the WA state borders be open in time for Christmas?” The government’s reply? “The West Australian border will only be reopened when it is appropriate to do so based on health advice for WA.”

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