Saturday, September 05, 2009

We're stimulating... other tourist industries

Australia's stimulus package has been like no other... for tourism operators in Fiji, New Zealand, the UK, the US and Canada.

All received record inflows of Australian tourists in July as an extraordinary 560,400 of us fled our shores, 17 per cent more than a year before, and almost 10 per cent more than the previous record set in June.

Short term departure totals compiled by the the Bureau of Statistics show a jump in December at the time of the first $8.7 billion round of bonus payments followed by a bigger jump in May after $11 billion of payments in March and April.

The figures are seasonally-adjusted and so reflect more than the traditional Australian desire to head north for the winter...

Returning to Tullamarine Airport yesterday Bob and Patricia Newall, said the bonus payments had helped with their decision to go to New Zealand. "We spent the money earlier on but then again, we had money to go on this trip, so I’d say it’s helped," Mr Newall said.

But travelers Eileen Potter and her husband said the cash splash didn't affect their decision to go to London. "I think if you depend so much on that package, you wouldn’t sort of blow it on a trip," she said.

New Zealand benefited the most from the rush overseas, gaining a record 97,100 Australian travellers in July, one in every six and more than went to Europe.

Despite the coup a record 24,300 Australians visited Fiji, up 29 per cent on a year before, and 44,500 went to Indonesia, despite the Jakarta bombings mid-July - up 46 per cent on the year before.

The planes that took out had a record 122,700 empty seats coming back, with only 437,000 foreign tourists coming to Australia in, a slide of 13 per cent over the year.

Tourism Task Force Managing Director Christopher Brown sees an upside.

"It follows that for so many Australians to fly out of the country, the same number of seats must be coming into the country," he said, "so we should be looking to fill as many of them as possible."

"That means tactical marketing campaigns in the countries that Australians are flying to. The airlines are playing their part, reducing fares to stimulate demand and the fact that Australians are taking advantage of the cheap fares shows it's possible to do it."

"Every night we are being bombarded with TV ads inviting us to come across the ditch. New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key is also its Tourism Minister. We should be doing the same thing."

But Queensland's Premier Anna Bligh doubts that extra spending on advertising is needed, telling the National Press Club yesterday that its most successful campaign was its viral "Best Job in the World" internet competition which attracted 7,500 on-line applications for the post of "caretaker" at Hamilton Island.

"We got more out of that than we did out of ads," she said.

The head of the International Monetary Fund Dominique Strauss-Kahn paid tribute to the stimulus measures of countries such as Australia in a speech in Berlin overnight, saying it was thanks to such "concerted and forceful policy actions" that global crisis had been contained.

But he pleaded with leaders not to withdraw their stimulus measures until the recovery had clearly taken hold.

In London today Australia's Treasurer Wayne Swan and other G-20 Finance Ministers will discuss the timing of the withdraw of stimulus measures.

Published in today's SMH and Age