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Local Tourism and the Road to Economic Recovery

Richard Tenser

We’ve all witnessed the significant hit that the travel industry has taken in the past two years, but as things (slowly) return to normal, what markets should tourism operators focus on?

 

International travellers have always played a critical role for Australian tourism, but during COVID, it has been local travellers that have been the lifeline for small businesses.

 

The state of international travel

Recent figures shared by Tourism Australia indicate that international travel is not going to return to “pre-COVID” levels until at least 2024, if not 2025. In January of 2022, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) recorded 265,000 overseas arrivals, the highest number recorded since restrictions came into place in March 2020. However, to put that into perspective, in January of 2020, there were 2.26 million overseas arrivals so we have only recovered 10% of pre-COVID levels so far.

 

Hesitancy from international markets

With international borders continuing to open up globally, we know that there will be a period of hesitancy from consumers as they become accustomed to the “new normal”. The idea of long-haul travel may not hold the same appeal as it did pre-COVID. This means that we are unlikely to see a quick and significant bounce-back in international arrivals.

 

The importance of local tourism

It is therefore more important than ever for operators to focus on domestic and regional travel. Local tourism can be a real driver of economic recovery for small businesses as they look to rebuild their customer base.

 

Domestic travellers are loyal and engaged, and while they don’t typically match the spend of international travellers, this trend is shifting as Australians are choosing to spend their international travel “budget” domestically.

 

Visiting friends and relatives (VFR travel)

One market that is often overlooked is visiting friends and relatives (VFR) travel. This type of travel accounts for a significant number of trips, with research from Tourism Australia indicating that in the 12 months to September 2019, VFR travellers took almost 15 million trips to destinations within Australia.

 

Whilst hesitancy remains for international travel, VFR travel (domestically) is returning faster than any other sector, and it’s easy to understand why, with families being separated for such a long time due to border closures.

 

What operators can do

There are a range of things that tourism operators can do to attract local and regional travellers.

  • Use targeted marketing campaigns
  • Develop unique experiences
  • Leverage social media platforms
  • Focus on customer service

 

By focusing on these, you will be able to capitalise on the growing trend for domestic travel and drive economic recovery in your region.

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