Significant cancellations as coronavirus, bushfires bite


Howard Salkow

Senior Journalist

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The hospitality industry is experiencing visitor cancellations totalling hundreds of thousands of dollars as coronavirus restrictions bite and tourism markets remain spooked by the recent bushfires, according to AccomNews, Australia’s premier products and services management journal for the accommodation industry.

And Cairns, one of the most popular Chinese holiday destinations outside of the big cities, experienced 19,000 cancellations last week, a loss of some $10 million.

Tourism Tropical North Queensland chief executive Mark Olsen said: “It’s not just the cancellations; there’s also no new bookings.

“With the reduction in aviation capacity – as of late last year – bushfires and now coronavirus, it’s a triple whammy for the tourism industry.”

And although the president of the Douglas Chamber of Commerce, Liz Ross, said she had not had any feedback from businesses impacted by the virus, the Douglas shire is still impacted.

Tara Bennett, Chief Executive Officer of Tourism Port Douglas Daintree (TPDD), said the Douglas tourism industry is feeling the flow-on effects from coronavirus-related cancellations, though not to the extent as Cairns.

“This is due to the different market mix with our visitors predominantly coming from Australia and the western markets.

“February is the quietest month for travel in the region and unfortunately this will be even quieter with concerns stemming from not just coronavirus, but the bush fire messaging earlier in the year,” she said.

Financial experts are warning the combination of threats could be a deadly one for the wider economy. NAB chief economist Alan Oster has predicted Australia could take a $15 billion, 0.8 percent hit to GDP in 2020.

According to AccomNews, Gold Coast-based Koala Blue Tours operator Bill Egerton has said all tours inbound from China that had been booked were all cancelled, losing 15 tours for February.

“The Chinese is about 10-20 percent of my business. I think the federal government doesn’t really understand the loss of income and the impact on businesses.

“The theme parks will suffer, the hotels will suffer. Those big groups can be anywhere from 20 to 500 people. China is our biggest market for overseas tourism by far.”

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