Larry Dwyer

Confidence in the domestic and international tourism sectors has taken a nosedive according to the latest survey, and this is likely to be due to the high dollar. However tourism operators in Australia may also be losing touch with their market, and should be continually reinventing their game.

With the Australian dollar hovering just above parity with the US dollar there are plenty of deterrents to tourists coming to Australia from overseas. If you add in the long distance, it’s no surprise that numbers are dropping, and so is confidence.
Six out of ten tourism operators are reporting forward sales to be worse or much worse than they were, according to the Mastercard Tourism Industry Sentiment Survey, with 80 percent of respondents saying the exchange rate is the number one impediment that dampens overseas visitor arrivals.
Certainly the Australian dollar is very high and that deters tourism to Australia. Even though figures show that the number of international passengers through Sydney and Melbourne airports is rising, Americans have always regarded Australia as a dream destination, but they regard the cost and the distance to come here as daunting.
Many more people are now finding that Australia is just too expensive for them – particularly holiday makers from Western Europe, who also have the tyranny of distance to cope with.
I feel we’ve been locked into the traditional ways of marketing for too long. Increasingly, marketers are recognising the extremely important impact of the internet and word-of-mouth marketing. Australians are net savvy, and will look up resorts, and read reviews. Why should they stay in a tired resort in Queensland – when they can travel to Bali and get something much more modern for half the price?
Australian holidaymakers may need reminding of the allure of the attractions that are right under their noses. And with domestic travellers representing three quarters of Australia’s tourism market, it’s an area that resorts need to capitalise on.

The impact of strikes at Qantas may further dent Australia’s attractiveness. Now with the added complication of industrial relations problems at Qantas causing flight disruption, many more holiday makers from overseas might become even more reluctant to make the trip.

Professor Larry Dwyer is an expert in tourism and tourism marketing at the Australian School of Business