Australian tourism operators are the gloomiest they have been about the industry in three years – especially those in rural areas.
Concerns about the global economy, natural disasters both at home and in two of Australia’s top tourist markets New Zealand and Japan and the number of Australians travelling overseas have contributed to the state of mind.
More than 40 per cent of operators expect international tourism to be worse than usual over the Christmas-New Year period, according to the latest TTF-MasterCard Tourism Industry Sentiment Survey.
Expectations for domestic tourism are more positive, with 15 per cent forecasting improved conditions.
But 30 per cent think domestic trade will be worse than usual for the period.
Tourism Transport Forum chief executive John Lee said it had been a tough year and operators were wary.
“If there’s a brighter spot, its that tourism operators are slightly less pessimistic about domestic travel for the upcoming holiday period, but keep in mind that expectations remain well below average,” he said.
“In other words, tourism operators are not getting their hopes up too high but they are hoping for better weather than we had for Christmas and January last year, especially in Queensland.”
Mr Lee also said the dollar remains a key area of concern, with 57 per cent of respondents ratubg the strong Australian dollar among the top three factors negatively impacting their business, down from 72 per cent last quarter.
The survey also found labour and skills issues continuing to gain prominence, with 88 per cent of operators nominating the skilled labour shortage and two thirds nominating a shortage of unskilled labour as being medium or high impediments to their businesses.