Urgent support needed for regional tourism industry ahead of predicted rush of visitors

There is a ripple of excitement gaining momentum and rolling across regional Australia as the tourism industry eagerly awaits announcements of the 'travel bubble' agreement between the Australian and New Zealand Governments. As New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern joins Australia's national cabinet meeting today to discuss both countries' plans to reopen, Australian Regional Tourism (ART) continues its ongoing work with our country's leaders to secure essential support for the sector as it begins the journey of reopening following the restrictions enforced due to coronavirus. The Conversation this week offered an insight into the way New Zealand is looking to rebuild its tourism market that will principally rely on domestic travel. "Until a trans-Tasman travel bubble is established, there is little doubt the New Zealand tourism industry will rely entirely on domestic travel post-COVID-19. Without underplaying the impact the pandemic will have on discretionary spending in both countries, however, there may be a silver lining to the crisis.

"Regional tourism organisations, attractions and operators may need to rethink their offerings and their pricing. While tramping the great walks may be perfectly affordable for a family of four, taking the family on a whale watch, a bungy jump or a cruise on Milford Sound may not be – especially as parts of one big holiday. Indeed, it has been found that price is the major decision-making factor for 30% of New Zealanders when it comes to holidays."

Above: The vibrancy of NZ carries from its cities to its incredible country side offering genuine welcoming hospitality, culture and culinary excellence. All at a discount to the Australian Dollar. Regional Australia will have to compete against a country that has tourism at its heart and soul.

Above: New Zealand - below Australia

Throughout the crisis ART has maintained constant contact with regions via its ongoing discussions with industry operators and local government contacts, and while there is a strong enthusiasm in regional areas this is being met with a certain apprehension being felt across the tourism sector. Any news of an agreement with our trans-Tasman neighbours is welcomed and will be widely supported by the regional visitor economy, but there is also great anxiety about the industry's readiness to reopen, ART Deputy Chair, Donna Foster said. "Talking to our members and industry stakeholders, we have clearly identified the need for hands-on resources in-region to provide support to the tourism industry as it navigates the long process to opening its doors once again," she said. "For many regional areas the pandemic has come at an extremely challenging time as many battle the impacts of the prolonged drought and others recover from this seasons devastating bushfires, the pressure on businesses and local councils was already enormous and this has just been magnified." ART is calling for support from the Australian Government to allow industry experts and specialists to get out into rural and remote regional areas to provide much needed assistance to tourism operators, visitor centre and local council staff. Support at a national level would guarantee a consistent delivery of assistance to regional destinations across the country and ensure the safe return of domestic travel, to support an industry that is the lifeblood of many regional communities.

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