THE largest international market for tourism locally is China so it’s inevitable that the coronavirus outbreak will impact the economy here.
To a lesser, but significant effect, the bushfires in East Gippsland have also taken their toll with some people staying away.
Tourist operators locally reported a 35 per cent hit to income through December-January with further impact from coronavirus to follow.
This week Kim Storey, General Manager of Destination Phillip Island, addresse the issue, reporting on cancellations through February and March.
“Destination Phillip Island Board Members and staff are working to support local industry, our travel trade partners and the wider community through the coronavirus and indirect impact of the bushfire.
“We express our sympathy to all those involved in the crisis across the world and hope for resolution shortly.
“During this time, we are prioritising the delivery of information and links to information from the Chief Medical Officer and the state government Department of Health.
Locally we are collating information on impacts and implementing strategies and plans to deliver support in the region.
“Tourism in the Phillip Island region (Bass Coast Shire) represents 35% of the region’s economy. It is a key driver of local employment contributing to 4300 jobs, $395 million to the gross regional product.
“The Christmas/Summer period traditionally attracts the highest visitation and significant economic contribution to the local economy. The coastal destination provides a diverse range of holiday experiences from its natural landscapes, wildlife attractions, waterways, family experiences and hospitality sector including restaurants, cafes, farm stores and wineries/breweries.
“Our accommodation sector is diverse in the range of choice and provides experiences for short to longer stays.
“Phillip Island is a key highlight for many International visitors travelling to Victoria over half a million visit annually, and our largest international market is from China.”
Destination Phillip Island said the region’s tourism businesses highly value the close relationships with the China travel trade based in Australia and partners in China and Hong Kong which they have developed over many years and locally, they were able to accommodate Lunar New Year travel prior to the travel ban from February 1.
“Visitors celebrating Lunar New Year are not just confined to the China market, and we continue to welcome other visitors from various countries such as Singapore, Vietnam and Korea.
“With the progress of the virus impact, cancellations of Chinese group tours and independent travellers for the remainder of February and March have now been received by many of our leading international operators and accommodation venues. These include Maru Koala and Animal Park, Phillip Island Chocolate Factory, Phillip Island Helicopters and many small to large accommodation venues.
“These cancellations contribute to a drop-in business to many additional venues like Chinese restaurants and other food venues who service group visitors coming into Cowes prior to the Penguin Parade.”
Destination Phillip Island said this has resulted in immediate economic impact to these and supporting businesses in the region.
“Tourism Australia is leading a campaign to promote domestic tourism to the Australian market, and we will work Tourism Australia and Visit Victoria to promote opportunities domestically and other international markets. Once the virus is resolved we will work with our valued Chinese travel trade to welcome visitors back to the region as soon as possible.”
Destination Phillip Island said regional communities like Phillip Island are directly impacted by these types of incidents, and coming off a very cool summer, air quality issues/perceptions and bushfire impacts in the State contributing to inaccurate reporting to potential visitors the local economy is facing challenges.
“Small business makes up the majority of our local businesses, who employ local people who now may face a reduction in shift availability which then contributes to a reduction in local spend.”
Destination Phillip Island’s industry survey has reported the following initial impacts:
* 35% of those surveyed reported a decrease in profits during December/January compared to last year
* Key impacts during December/January of businesses surveyed reported the following influenced their profitability; 74% reported the bushfires, 80% reported the air quality, 65% reported coronavirus, 38% reported power outages
* Looking ahead 50% of businesses reported coronavirus will have the greatest impact on their business in the coming months
Many businesses in the accommodation and attraction sector have received significant cancellations for touring traffic – groups and independent travellers for February/March. Concern and perceptions over the bushfires and enforced travel bans for Chinese visitors are the key contributors.
“Impacts of these events puts pressure on local business to continue to provide employment opportunities and shifts to the local workforce. This can contribute to lower spend locally, so now more than ever we encourage everyone to spend locally,” Ms Storey said.
“We can look forward to the World Superbike Championships and preseason testing delivering positive outcomes to the sector and as a platform to beam imagery of Victoria across the world to encourage visitation.”
She said Destination Phillip Island was currently working on a marketing campaign to encourage Victorians to visit and stay in the coming months.
“We hope local industry will get involved by creating welcoming stories and offers on their digital platforms and in their venues. These are the times we hope to see industry unity and cross promotion at its strongest.
As a whole the tourism industry wants to encourage locals, Victorians, and Australians to support tourism regions, and the call to take holidays in Australia this year and look forward to positive progress in the containment of the coronavirus.”