tourism news

ACT tourism coronavirus recovery focused on domestic travel


With large events unlikely for many months, including the Balloon Spectacular, pictured, VisitCanberra will focus on domestic travellers looking for safe weekends away. Picture: Supplied
With large events unlikely for many months, including the Balloon Spectacular, pictured, VisitCanberra will focus on domestic travellers looking for safe weekends away. Picture: Supplied
Canberra’s tourism body will lead a marketing push to attract regional visitors for short stays once coronavirus restrictions begin to lift, in a bid to jump-start the ailing tourism market.

With the pandemic likely to have long-term impacts on Australians’ travel habits, VisitCanberra says it will first focus on promoting Canberra to Canberrans and, as restrictions ease, tourists within driving distance of the capital.

“This will expand to our core domestic markets of regional NSW, Sydney, Melbourne and regional Victoria,” director Jonathan Kobus said.

“The visiting friends and relatives market will be important. People will want to reconnect and see loved ones again.


“We anticipate people will be eager to get away for a weekend and visit safe and comfortable destinations. Canberra can offer this.”

Domestic travellers make up 90 per cent of Canberra’s tourism market, with Chief Minister Andrew Barr already warning operators not to expect an international tourism market for “many years”.

He said Canberra’s best hope was a resumption of some domestic travel after winter.

Mr Kobus said local operators would need to be flexible as COVID-19 would likely have long term implications.

“Leisure visitors may travel with greater social conscience, take fewer and shorter trips,” he said.

Business travel could be reduced after working-from-home practices become normal, school visits would be structured differently and regulations would change how people gathered for large events, Mr Kobus said.

Mr Barr told the Legislative Assembly’s COVID-19 response inquiry domestic travel was the best immediate chance for the ACT’s tourism and hospitality sectors, which he acknowledged had been hit hard by the pandemic’s economic effect.

“If Australians holiday at home, if and when that opportunity presents in the coming months and years, there’s a very significant market there provided the rest of the economy recovers,” Mr Barr said.

The Australian Hotels Association believes the international market could be closed for two years.

ACT general manager Anthony Brierly said governments should be focusing their marketing efforts on new domestic tourists, but this should only be done when it was safe and financially viable.

“This is likely to be three to four months away,” Mr Brierly said.

Peter Collingon, an infectious diseases expert from the Australian National Univeristy, said there would be little international travel until September at the earliest.

Professor Collingon said some travel could resume before then with tough restrictions to contain coronavirus.

“Basically, until we have a vaccine that’s safe and effective and used widely around the world, which you’re really talking 18 months, there’s going to be significant impacts on international travel,” Professor Collingon said.

He said he would want to see the effect coronavirus had in the northern hemisphere next winter before considering travelling to Europe or the United States.

With Australian’s strong position in efforts to contain the pandemic, domestic travel, which could include New Zealand, was likely to resume far sooner, Professor Collingon said.

“If we’ve got good testing in Australia and we know there is little transmission in the community both in Australia and New Zealand, well then that then becomes much safer for travel, because we’ve got a handle on it,” he said.

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Michael Walsh, an assistant professor in social sciences at the University of Canberra, said the experience of the pandemic would make travellers more apprehensive and could recast what was considered travel.

Professor Walsh said there could be a stronger focus in future on virtual tourism experiences, particularly as social distancing requirements remained in place and events were banned while the pandemic was controlled.

For information on COVID-19, please go to the ACT Health website or the federal Health Department’s website.
You can also call the Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080
If you have serious symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, call Triple Zero (000)
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