NATIONAL media has been reporting a “worst case scenario” for Victorian tourist attractions which rely on Chinese tourist groups, as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak, after recording wholesale cancelations stretching through to midyear.
It’s a double whammy after the negative publicity associated with the terrible bushfires along the eastern seaboard which have received worldwide publicity.
An article online, by Age reporter Paul Sakkal, expected Victorian attractions to be among those most impacted.
“Melbourne businesses reliant on Chinese tourists are already refunding tickets and contemplating laying off staff. Destinations including Apollo Bay and attractions such as Puffing Billy are expected to be among those hardest hit.”
Phillip Island was another mentioned in the article with groups like the Melbourne-based Odyssey Travel listing popular destinations including the Great Ocean Road, Phillip Island, Apollo Bay and Puffing Billy as being impacted.
They contacted three hotel managers on Phillip Island who said they were bracing for the effects of the travel ban.
“It will affect places like Phillip Island badly, it’s just a matter of how hard,” said a hotel operator who asked not to be named.
“We had it with SARS and it’s happening again.”
Tourism Minister Martin Pakula said it was too early to know how badly the Coronavirus would hurt the tourism sector.
“Following the devastating fires that have affected East Gippsland and north-east Victoria, the message is clear – the most practical thing that ordinary Victorians can do right now to help these regions is to travel there and spend money there,” he said.
Visitors trending down
Visitor numbers at Phillip Island Nature Parks (PINP) attractions were already trending down.
In a newsletter posted on January 3 this year, by the Phillip Island Nature Parks Board as its update for November and December 2019, a downturn in visitor numbers was noted, including a reduction in Chinese tour groups.
“Visitation: The Board discussed visitation across all Nature Parks’ sites, along with visitation trends across Victoria. The Board noted that the Nature Parks had experienced exponential growth over the previous 10 years, and were now experiencing a downturn in visitation from the Chinese and domestic markets, which is consistent [with] other attractions across the State. The Penguin
Parade had experienced a small decline, while the reduction at the Nature Parks’ other sites was more pronounced. The Board continues to closely monitor visitation and is focused on achieving the best possible outcome for the Nature Parks and Phillip Island.”
The statement was attributed to Nature Parks Chair, Liz Stinson.
From the Phillip Island Nature Parks’ annual report 2018-19, visitor numbers to the Penguin Parade fell from 740,899 in 2017-2018 to 719,617, which are the most recent figures published.
In an ‘International Market Snapshot’, the Chinese market is front and centre for PINP promotions, reporting “market penetration is increasing significantly with activities in Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou as well as Chengdu, Shenzhen, Chongqing, Nanjing, Tianjin and Hangzhou”.
“We continued to implement our three-year China strategy and develop our Chinese website and social media channels. We conducted sales calls to inbound operators based in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Gold Coast. We attended the Visit Victoria mission in China and Hong Kong in May. We partnered with China Eastern Airlines to promote the Nature Parks and ecotourism opportunities.”
PINP notes several other initiatives aimed at the Chinese market so news that China has banned all outbound tour groups will certainly have an impact here.