Expert: Local tourism boom calls for industry rethink

A Western Sydney University Tourism expert says the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to have significant, lasting impacts on Australians’ travel habits and preferences.

Dr Garth Lean from the University’s School of Social Sciences said, even when our borders open for overseas travel, Aussies are likely to stay local and will opt for experience or nature-based destinations. For those that do venture overseas, he said perceptions of safety will be the most influential factor.

“After being confined to our homes, very local areas and activities will be quite novel and safe and will satisfy the urges of travellers who were previously looking for international experiences,” said Dr Lean.

“Domestic tourism will remain a high priority as it will be deemed safer to travel within Australia. There are also more socially distanced transport methods available. In non-island countries, international travel is more possible, but for us, it involves getting on a plane or cruise – which many people won’t be willing to do just yet.”

Dr Lean said people’s perceptions of international destinations will be influenced by how well the countries navigated the global health crisis and how they were portrayed in the news.

“For Australians, New Zealand will be high on many people’s lists. New Zealand knows it is vital for their economy that Australians start returning, so I expect trans-Tasman travel to remain high on the agenda,” said Dr Lean.

“Outside of New Zealand, people will look for destinations that are not too far from Australia, with good connections to get back if they need to. People will be more aware of cancellation policies for their bookings and the fine print on travel insurance policies. Expect to see an increasing number of ‘travel bubbles’ opening up between countries and regions that had similar COVID-19 management strategies and outcomes.”

“Border closures have also reinforced the distance between families living in different countries and interstate. Visiting friends and relatives (VFR) travel is expected to increase as people will be keen to visit family as soon as they perceive it as safe to do so.”

According to Dr Lean, the pandemic presents an opportunity to recover and reshape the tourism industry, with many stakeholders looking to address persistent issues, including the overcrowding of destinations.

“There is a hope that people will come out of COVID-19 with a desire to travel less, travel local, or to explore international offerings through other means, particularly through digital technology.”


23 June 2020

Ali Sardyga, Media Officer