Tourism industry questions whether coronavirus travel bubble will boost Tasmania’s economy

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August 7 heralds a new age in Tasmania’s post-COVID-19 world — it’s the date the state’s borders begin to reopen.

For restaurant owner Vee Hanson, the date can’t come quickly enough.

“I’m a little excited about it, but a little nervous as well with COVID-19,” she said.

Ms Hanson bought the Signal Station Restaurant at Mt Nelson just over a year ago.

It’s a popular tourist destination with sweeping views of Hobart and the Derwent Estuary that reach all the way to the Southern Ocean.

But not even a grade A location could protect her business from the virus.

“We had a huge decrease. It was a 78 per cent loss in revenue — it was so devastating,” Ms Hansen said.

Now there’s hope Friday, August 7, will become a turning point for Tasmania’s economy. But it’s sure to be a long and bumpy ride.

Tasmania’s borders will effectively open only to South Australia and the Northern Territory, so the Tourism Industry Council expects the island’s economic recovery to be slow.

“We’re not expected to be flooded with visitors from South Australia and the Northern Territory,” CEO Luke Martin said.

“Clearly they’re small markets, but it’s the start of the pathway forward.”

The latest figures from Tourism Tasmania show South Australia and Northern Territory represent just 5.5 per cent of the domestic tourism market and only 4.5 per cent of total tourism.

Therefore, Tasmania’s 1,675 tourism businesses, employing 43,200 people, will need local support for some time to come.

“We know Tasmanians have been amazing the last few weeks,” Mr Martin said.

“They’re going to continue getting out and exploring our state, and that’s been a lifesaver for many businesses.”

Tasmania eyes Victorian and NSW markets

New tracking data for people living in state capitals shows the movement of Hobartians during July.

According to DSpark Analytics, the top three destinations between July 4-18, all with more than 2,000 visitors from Hobart, were the south-east coast, the north-east and Launceston.

The 10th most popular destination with approximately 200 visitors was Melbourne, in the middle of its second wave of coronavirus.

But Michael Bailey from the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said Tasmanians exploring their own backyard were not enough to keep the industry afloat.

“Hats [off] to Tasmanians who really are supporting local businesses so well — but it’s just not enough,” he said.

The difference between local support and interstate travel is like the difference between chalk and King Island cheese.

Tasmanians hitting the road typically stay away three nights, spending an average of $336.

Mainland visitors stay away eight nights on average, spending $1,850 each.

Mr Bailey said there was an opportunity for Tasmania to exploit its travel bubble and expand its domestic markets.

“We know at the moment [tourists] can’t really go too far because of the restrictions in place on the eastern seaboard and also international restrictions in place, so there is a real window of opportunity for Tasmania,” he said.

Whatever the increased uptake, it will still be small when compared with NSW and Victoria, which currently represent more than 70 per cent of Tasmania’s domestic travel market.

Mr Martin said Tasmanian eyes were on Victoria and New South Wales.

“The game changer for us will be when those markets reopen and hopefully, particularly with NSW, that’s sooner than later,” he said.

By Guy Stayner (Original ABC Article)

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