Australians, where the bloody hell are you?
With international travel forbidden in the foreseeable future, the government is urging the nearly 10 million Australians who travelled overseas last year to look at their own backyards for their next holiday.
The more than $65 billion they spent in foreign destinations would go a long way to helping domestic tourism operators reeling from the bushfires and coronavirus pandemic.
And it’s half as much again as tourists usually spend in Australia each year.
The tourism and hospitality sectors have been the hardest hit by the virus.
About three in 10 accommodation and food sector jobs have been lost since mid-March, the latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows.
Just 750 foreign tourists arrived in Australia in May, compared with nearly 458,000 in the same month last year.
Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham says there’s an enormous potential to replace the vanished overseas travellers with Australians.
“For those Australians who can afford to do so, we want them to feel an almost patriotic duty to get out and support the jobs and small businesses of their fellow citizens by having whatever Aussie holiday they can,” he told the National Press Club on Wednesday.
“That could mean instead of the beaches of Bali, it could be the beaches of Byron Bay.
“I hope Australians use this time to travel across our magical continent and become better-informed ambassadors of all that we have to offer.”
The closure of state borders has been a sticking point in preventing Australians from holidaying farther afield throughout the country.
South Australia reopened its borders to people from Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Tasmania from Wednesday.
Queensland is expected to reopen to interstate visitors from July 10, midway through the NSW school holidays.
Senator Birmingham also indicated the government wants to better encourage and highlight Indigenous tourism once Australia does open its borders to foreign visitors.
“The stories of the oldest living culture in the world should be anchored in the experiences our nation shares with cultural tourists from around the world,” he said.