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Sunday, May 31, 2020

Tourism: what’s our new normal?

UniSA’s Professor Marianna Sigala:
“A return to travel will all be about small, safe,
manageable steps.”
After months of lockdown, it’s no surprise that people are itching to get out and about. But with ongoing debates about how and when to open Australia’s state and territory borders, it’s hard to know what to expect.

According to global tourism expert, UniSA’s Professor Marianna Sigala it’s not just tourists who are unsure about next steps, it’s also tourism businesses. And, with change continuing to dictate the immediate future, knowing the likely trends is imperative for operators in the sector.

Prof Sigala says while South Australians can now travel regionally, their travel behaviours will certainly change; accommodating these changes will be a key step in rebuilding the industry.

“There’s a real tug of war going on – people are keen to get out and about, and away from their lockdown locations, but at the same time they’re guided by Covid-19 restrictions and are cautious of protecting their personal health,” Prof Sigala says.

“What this means is that a sense of safety and security will really drive tourists’ choices, affecting not only how and where they travel, but also what they do on holiday.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Total revamp needed to secure the future of Aussie tourism post #Covid19

Professor Marianna Sigala, lobbying for a more
ethical and sustainable tourism industry
A complete reset of Australia’s tourism industry is necessary to ensure its future success, according to global tourism expert, Professor Marianna Sigala at the University of South Australia.

As debates continue about how and when to open Australia’s state and territory borders, Prof Sigala says we must consider what we want Australia’s future tourism industry to look like, with a clear lens on sustainability and well-being.

“There’s no doubt Australia’s tourism sector is suffering – we started the year in recovery following the devastating bushfires and then, before operators were even back on their feet, we were hit with the Covid-19 pandemic, and everything rapidly shut down,” Prof Sigala says.

“Everyone is keen to re-active our tourism industry, but we must not default to ‘business as usual’. A new restart rather than a recovery to the old normal is more reasonable.

“COVID-19 has led to profound changes on tourists’ behaviour and expectations as well as on industry operations which are predicted to have long-lasting impacts. We need to take advantage of the slow-down to reflect, rethink and plan for improved practices and behaviours.

“This includes revisiting how tourism activities impact communities; respecting nature and surrounds to ensure we’re enhancing and giving back to the areas and assets that draw tourists; and we need to do that with a mindset that shows we are ready for a successful and sustainable future.

“A tourism resetting plan that encompasses responsible tourism, seasonality and climate change, and importantly, practices that benefit all stakeholder – operators, visitors and communities – and their tangible and intangible cultural assets, could position Australia as a world exemplar in re-imagining and leading new tourism management in the post COVID era.”

Environmentally, the pandemic has had a positive impact. In India, Covid-19 has closed factories, to clear once-polluted skies; the Himalayan mountain range is now visible from some cities for the first time in years. In Venice, as canal traffic has come to a standstill, once-murky waters are also clear.

Tourists climb Ayers Rock in the mid-70s (Roderick Eime)

Closer to home, Australia had been making positive steps, even before the onset of Covid-19. In October last year, the iconic Uluru was permanently closed to climbers as a mark of respect to the traditional owners of the land.

Yet with recent calls from Northern Territory business groups to reopen the climb for the sake of tourism, Prof Sigala says we still have a lot to learn.

“While isolation has enabled physical environments a chance to recover from the lack of mass tourism, we must find a balance between caring for tourism assets – and the communities in which they reside –valorising them for supporting tourism activities within and around these locations,” Prof Sigala says.

“When we commoditise and commercialise a cultural asset, we risk transforming it into an attraction driven by visitation defined by economic growth.

“The trade-off between economic and other values is our current mindset, and this needs to shift.”

The World Tourism Organization estimates that international tourist arrivals could drop to 78 per cent, which translates to a drop of up to 1.1 billion international arrivals and a loss of US$ 1.2 trillion (nearly A$1.9 trillion) in export revenues from tourism, representing the largest decline in the history of the industry.

Under these dire conditions, survival of the industry must still include sustainability planning and development.

“Sustainability management should not be viewed as an expense to be managed, but as an investment for the future,” Prof Sigala says.

“Australia must continue to implement activities to keep customers, tourism staff and businesses engaged and ready for when travel restrictions lift.

“We need to communicate to the wider and international community that we are not in hibernation, but rather we are upgrading, innovating and introducing sustainable changes in our tourism offerings and operations that enhance the well-being of tourists and our communities.

“When tourists come back, we should be welcoming them to a better, more ethical and more sustainable tourism industry.”

ATIC: Supporting a safe return to enjoying local tourism experiences #Covid19

The Australian Tourism Industry Council (ATIC) has launched its latest program of practical support for small and medium size tourism enterprises in the safe delivery of great experiences to the returning visitor.

ATIC Executive Director Simon Westaway
COVID Clean Practising Business is a complimentary online program that assists tourism businesses to develop plans and procedures to create and maintain a COVID safe workplace and operations. It follows ATIC’s recent unveiling of a COVID Tourism Recovery Plan module.

The free program represents a core component of the long-standing Quality Tourism Framework (QTF). The new COVID Clean Practicing Business program also becomes a fresh offering to the already thousands of accredited star-rated and award-winning tourism businesses across Australia within the QTF.

Using Workplace Health & Safety standards and reflecting individual State or Territory requirements, the COVID Clean Practicing Business program develops customised cleaning checklists that are specifically tailored for tourism businesses.

The program also supports the development of safe work practices such as social distancing, staff training and customer guidance and the creation of a COVID-19 risk register. Once in place, these systems support individual tourism business efforts to minimise community spread of COVID-19 and to provide peace of mind to customers, guests and employees.

ATIC Executive Director Simon Westaway said tourism businesses that have successfully completed the new program will be able to provide an assurance to visitors and guests that additional hygiene steps and sound safe work practices are in place by displaying the COVID Clean Practising Business mark on-premises and on line.

“Our industry has faced unimaginable challenges this year and we want to make every effort to support their recovery. The COVID Clean Practising Business program will assist small and medium tourism enterprises, the backbone of our industry, to take practical, but necessary steps to provide a safe and secure place of business as well as give their prospective customers renewed confidence to book,” Mr Westaway said.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Qatar Airways resumes Brisbane service with A350-1000 debut

Qatar Airways A350-1000 (Source: Australian Aviation)

Qatar Airways is the global launch customer for the A350-1000, the world’s most advanced passenger aircraft

Qatar Airways’ has officially resumed its Brisbane operations with the first flight of the new service landing at Brisbane International Airport last night. The Airbus A350-1000 left Hamad International Airport, which was voted Third Best Airport in the World at the Skytrax World Airport Awards 2020, landing in Brisbane at 8:45pm local time.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Surge in road trips is all in the data says CamperMate

Australia’s number one road travel experience app says a strong rise in road travel awaits

The CamperMate app, Australia’s number one road travel experience app, with almost 2 million users, is demonstrating how a strong and immediate take-up in future travel for day trips and anticipated future overnight stays is set to occur as we safely navigate out from the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is well proven Australians love to travel and holiday – even for a day trip or short break. And the forced shutdown of domestic and international travel, the right thing to do to support the public health response to coronavirus, has made us more cautious and community minded during this time.

Respected and senior tourism leader, CamperMate CEO Nick Baker, said the rapidly developing green shoots now occurring with the CamperMate road travel experience app, closely correlate with predicted pent up demand for get-on-the-road and travel activity across our country and which is predicted in the weeks ahead.

Mr Baker said CamperMate’s surge in users over the month of May, a compound growth of at least 140 per cent each week, is exciting news and a real-life indicator for more positive times ahead for our beleaguered tourism businesses, regional centres and our great cities which are desperately ready to welcome people back.

“Last week our CamperMate App was downloaded by 5000 new users! This is a fraction of what we usually see when tourism is fully firing. But the current triple digit growth rate in users of the App is very clear to us and demonstrates there are genuine green shoots in the road back for tourism,” Mr Baker said.

“Our rapidly increasing numbers of users of the CamperMate app highlights that many people are planning to embrace road trips ahead of the Queen’s Birthday holiday weekend and into the winter break for schools.

“This is an exciting prospect for our regional visitor hot spots, now further encouraged by the latest State Government announcements such as in NSW and South Australia, to encourage people to get back out there!”


The former senior executive of Tourism Australia and Voyages and CEO of Red Balloon said CamperMate’s App performance numbers paint a realistic picture of how and when people will embrace the chance to travel again.

He said in the few short weeks during February - between when the horrendous bushfires came under control and the onset of COVID-19 - CamperMate’s strong data insights showed many Australians were quickly driving back into and through our regions. They also over-prolonged their stay in many places against trend – a sign we anticipate could be repeated based on the anticipated pent up demand for local travel in a COVID Safe economy.

“At CamperMate we predict this will again become the case as authorities make clear further easings of restrictions and encouragement of initially local and intrastate travel,” Mr Baker said.

Mr Baker said since CamperMate’s inception it has been a strong supporter and partner of industry with its strong data insights well reflecting road trip travel activity and destination performance. It has become an information tool feeding into government and industry planning on both sides of the Tasman. This includes monitoring tourist and visitor volumes and strategically assessing activity within road and park networks.

“CamperMate possesses an innovative new in-trip booking platform for thousands of accommodation and experience options, including offers in caravan and recreational parks, as well as providing real-time updates on any travel warnings or closed areas in-journey. CamperMate helps makes a good trip great,” Mr Baker said.

“CamperMate’s value to users is also pulling live data from service providers so travellers have truly localised updates on the latest offers, accessibility, weather and travel conditions before making a pre or in-trip booking.

“Increasingly this is the way many people are now travelling by making decisions in trip! CamperMate’s evolving features now make it even more appealing and practical to the emergent Australian domestic traveller.”

The CamperMate app is available to download free on IOS and Android devices and is supported by leaders in the Australian and New Zealand caravan and RV industry including Jayco and Discovery Parks Australia.

Instagram: @CamperMate

Traveloscopy | 

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

200 Baby Turtles Born at Banyan Tree Samui

Thai resort nurses green turtles to life

The birth of some 200 green turtles has brought a moment of joy to the staff at one of Thailand’s top hotels.

Between April 4 and 24, three nests hatched on the secluded beach at Banyan Tree Samui resort, and a total of 200 baby turtles emerged under the watchful gaze of the hotel’s resident marine biologist, Thepsuda Loyjiw.

Banyan Tree Samui's CSR team had erected a fence
around the turtle nests to protect the eggs from predators.
Since a giant mother turtle laid the eggs in late February and early March, they’ve matured in the protective custody of Loyjiw’s team and the local Department of Marine and Coastal Resources.

“It was heartwarming to watch the baby turtles being born, and then scurrying to the sea,” said Loyjiw. “Ever since the mother turtle laid her eggs on our beach, we have been protecting them from predators such as birds and monitor lizards, and gauging the temperature of the eggs to make sure the hatchlings would be given every chance of survival.”

It appears that this mother turtle was in luck, because not only does Banyan Tree Samui employ a sustainability team headed by a marine biologist, but the 5-star hotel was singled out last year by global watchdog EarthCheck as meeting the highest standards for environmentalism in the country.

Banyan Tree Samui is located at the southeastern tip of Koh Samui in the Gulf of Thailand. The resort’s beach is sheltered in a cove, flanked by coral reefs, and isolated from the busy public beaches of Chaweng and Lamai.

When fully grown, green sea turtles generally weigh between 110 and 180 kg and measure about one meter in length. It is rare in Thailand for a giant green turtle (Chelonia mydas) to lay eggs so close to a tourist area; most seek out deserted bays in the Andaman Sea to make nests. However, since the onset of Covid-19, hotels on Koh Samui have been ordered to close, bringing the popular tropical island to a standstill.

Several recent news reports have noted that marine life and wildlife have regenerated on many of Thailand’s most popular tourist destinations since the coronavirus crisis began. Nests of rare leatherback turtles have been discovered on Phuket, and an increasing number of dugongs has been spotted close to Thai shores.

Friday, May 15, 2020

ATIC: Live from AUS – Let’s bring Australian tourism a-live

Executive Director of ATIC, Simon Westaway
The Australian Tourism Industry Council and its thousands of tourism SME member businesses, including many regional-based firms are strongly behind the success of Tourism Australia’s innovative ‘Live from AUS’ domestic campaign.

The mainstream media, as well as digital and online execution, launches this evening through broadcast media and then through TA’s highly popular Facebook page and YouTube channels.

Executive Director of ATIC, Simon Westaway said:

“Enthusiastically we wish Tourism Australia well with this bold and innovative campaign approach. Importantly we observe it includes a focus on how Australia’s tourism SME’s from all corners of the country deliver their compelling offering and how it can and will strongly appeal to local audiences to hit the road and holiday here this year.

“Domestic tourism is the well-known backbone of our sector. Pre the COVID-19 pandemic Australians were spending $100 billion annually inside our domestic visitor economy, which like our international visitor and spending numbers, were running at record levels.

“Close to three-quarters of our industry is a domestic play and that clearly will not change for the years ahead.

“Acknowledging the significant hurdles that our industry has faced with a stratospheric drop in demand the face of recovery will not be easy. This week’s official massive lift in unemployment and underemployment levels and rising household debt and cashflow stress highlight this.

“But it is the right thing for our acclaimed national tourism agency to keep the inspiration of a domestic holiday, a regional and rural journey or short trip top of mind and that time is now.

“Innovative campaigns like this are a further proof point that there is a genuine, longer-term role for Tourism Australia to play in Australia’s domestic tourism sector. Our position on this has never wavered.

“We wish the campaign well and look forward to hearing of the strong outcomes and insights gained and hopefully lots of future trips being considered or booked!”

Further Details: Simon Westaway Executive Director, ATIC M: 0401 994 627

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Update from Tourism Western Australia

Happy Friday!
Brodie Carr, MD,
Tourism Western Australia

It was encouraging to see the Prime Minister’s announcement this morning following the National Cabinet about guidelines around a three-step approach to easing coronavirus restrictions, with each State and Territory to determine how this will be applied.

On Sunday, the Premier will announce the next phase for WA and the roadmap for easing coronavirus restrictions.

Thanks for taking the time to join me last week for our online industry update on Tourism WA’s big-picture marketing strategy going forward.

As I mentioned in the presentation, we will remain active on our social channels throughout each stage of our COVID-19 recovery including a new holding social campaign.

We have deliberately waited until after the Prime Minister’s announcement today to launch the “Adventure Awaits” campaign so it is as current as possible.  We are planning more content following the Premier’s announcement on Sunday. This has placed even more importance on the need for tourism businesses to ready themselves for travellers.

The campaign will encourage people to keep our State front of mind as a must-visit holiday destination and will run until intrastate regional restrictions are lifted and the time is right to travel again. We’re currently developing a toolkit for tourism operators to have the opportunity to be featured as part of this campaign. More information will be available in the next edition of Talking Tourism on May 14.

This campaign will be able to pivot when intrastate borders open and I look forward to sharing more information with you soon about what this will look like and the next steps.

We are also showcasing some of the best WA holiday experiences on our new Virtual Hub, which brings together immersive content from tourism operators around the State.

I’d encourage you all to get involved if you can - find out more about how you can get involved here.

Hope you have a great weekend,

Brodie Carr
Managing Director

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Cruising Again in 2020: Australia and NZ to kick off return to cruising

Why it will start in Australia and New Zealand first.


by Richard Davey

In recent years, a high proportion of the cruise industry has been headquartered in Miami and surrounding areas. The home ports of Miami and Fort Lauderdale are the largest hubs on a year-round basis. For over 30 years, when the latest and largest additions to the fleets have been launched and Christened, it has normally been there that they have sailed. The rest of the world had to wait, almost every time. This pattern was in the process of being repeated yet again by new market entrant Virgin Voyages. Their newbuild Scarlet Lady was about to commence her Miami-based operations when the shutdown was enforced.

Amidst the new challenges posed by the pandemic of 2020, much of the industry’s focus again seems introspective and appears to follow The White House in being somewhat optimistic in its assessment of the pandemic’s ongoing effect on the population of the United States. The already established pattern is that the United States CDC announces a “no sail” order, nominating a date before which North American cruise operations should not resume unless the situation somehow improves sooner than expected. This is followed by announcements from several cruise lines saying that they are planning to resume operations at an earlier date. This is plainly unrealistic given when current statistics and when it is remembered that the cruise lines are normally compliant with CDC orders and that the need for such compliance will be greater than ever moving forward.

The Northern Summer is the event around which much the cruise industry revolves. The marquee destinations of Alaska, the Caribbean and Europe. The massive source markets of North America, UK and Germany embark on their holidays and some of the world’s greatest travel experiences are enjoyed by millions. It would seem difficult for even the most optimistic of souls to take a look at the stranglehold that Coronavirus currently has over these populations and not conclude that the Summer of 2020 is going to have to be written off by the cruise industry and that they should refocus on responding to the green traffic lights as they appear, rather than trying to run the red lights.

In Australia, New Zealand and many neighbouring island nations, the lights are flashing amber and about to turn green. The target is not containment of this virus, but outright elimination. We are already 85% of the way towards achieving that goal. We are not exposed to land borders and have very close cooperation between our governments. There is much talk of opening our borders to one another whilst keeping them closed to those outside the zone or “bubble”. This lifting of restrictions will open up both commerce and leisure in our region. If the cruise industry can meet the challenge of focusing on the potential of this region and restoring the confidence of consumers and governments then this region shall be the venue for the return of cruising, and July should be the realistic target date.

Aside from the prospect of a healthy population, there are other reasons why this region is suitable for a restart at this time.

Australia and New Zealand are proven as a source market. Traditionally, the local market has always supported year-round cruising. For decades, cruises have departed Sydney during our winter months, setting sail for the tropical regions to the North. The islands of Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Fiji as well as the coast of Queensland. With growth, the ports of Auckland, Brisbane and Fremantle have also supported year-round cruises and in recent years, boutique and luxury cruises have also operated to Papua New Guinea and Australia’s Kimberley region. World and Grand cruises, designed for Australians and New Zealanders to enjoy a no-fly getaway from our winter have also been undertaken, first by P&O and in recent years by Princess Cruises. All this is proven by its success. The question in 2020 is, how many Aussies and Kiwis who might otherwise have been cruising in Alaska, Asia, New England, or Europe, or the hundreds of thousands more who would have been enjoying land-based holidays – but have been forced to stay at home instead – how many of them will respond to the chance of a late-winter or spring getaway within our region?

The ships are already nearby, and so are their crew.

Despite the eviction by press conference of the cruise industry by the governments of Australia and New Zealand with calls to return to their ports of registry, many of the ships that serve the Australasian market have retreated no further than South-East Asia. This has provided the opportunities for the repatriation of crew, as well as the dry-docking and lay-up of ships there. The fleet of ships currently in Asia not only includes ships that serve the Australasian market year-round and for long seasonal positionings, but also a few other that would be welcome additions should their owners decide to join in for a safe resumption of cruising in this region.

Where, when and who?

P&O Pacific Aria Auckland 4th July

There may not be any Americans on board to celebrate their national day, but the suspension of cruise operations in NZ will just have been lifted, so that’s reason enough for celebration.

Sapphire Princess 7th July Sydney to Fremantle – with Winter sure to be biting Sydneysiders by this day, if the Inside cabins get ditched, the buffet is banned and the aircon is shipshape, it will be time for Sapphire to shine.

The Kimberley

With a virus-free Australia ready to travel but with the Northern Hemisphere off the menu, this can be the year to tick this destination off aboard one of the small ships that get up close in this pearl of a destination. It has never been an inexpensive holiday, but neither has a trip to Europe at the pointy end of the aircraft.

Queen Elizabeth was already backing up for her longest Australian season ever, but with her Alaska 2020 season already cancelled, and Asia surely in doubt, she will be ready to go when we are and is currently anchored near Manila.

Silver Muse already due here late this year, an early arrival could be on the cards if her other itineraries are in doubt. This could also be the case for Windstar Cruises’ Star Breeze

© Richard Davey 2020

Richard Davey
Richard Davey is a 30-year veteran of the travel industry with an unusual insight into the cruise industry. He has serviced Sydney's elite with travel advice through his agency, Ambassador Travel, for almost 20 years.

Having represented several ship owners including ResidenSea's The World, Richard is regarded as one of Australia’s leading authorities in the cruise industry and is frequently heard on the top rating Radio 2GB Sydney, 2CC Canberra and 4BC Brisbane.

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