Tourism chiefs in Australia remain upbeat despite a fall in UK visitor spend. “We have seen a volatility [following Brexit],” said Denise von Wald, regional general manager for the UK and northern Europe at Tourism Australia.
“Some operators are saying they’ve had their best ever January but had to work their tails off in February.”
Although UK visitor numbers have been steadily increasing since 2014, with 716,700 Brits touching down in Australia in the year ending December 2016 (an upswing of 4% compared to the year prior), spend fell by 3%. Von Wald attributed the fall in expenditure to the drop in the purchasing power of the pound post-Brexit vote, but added that 2017 could see improved results.
“The pound was down as much as 18% [so] to only be down 3% in spend means that we still have more people coming and that they’re spending more pounds – it’s just not worth as much in Aussie dollars,” she said. “As the pound comes back [recovers] that [expenditure] could come back.”
In a further financial blow, it was announced earlier this month that Tourism Australia would lose $14 million in funding, down from $143 million to $129 million in 2017-18.
But managing director John O’Sullivan shrugged off concerns about the budget cuts. “It’s not as severe as it might look from the outside,” he said. “Most of it has come out of foreign exchange as we spend a lot of our money overseas. There was a small component that was related to government-wide efficiencies.”
In spite of the challenges faced, O’Sullivan also highlighted the destination’s newfound potential for growth. “The US is a big competitor of ours – looking at visitation and who is above us, a big chunk of that is the US,” he said.
Referring to the so-called ‘Trump slump’, Von Wald said: “We think there’s a real opportunity for us.”
O’Sullivan concluded by saying he believed 2017 would be a bumper year: “We’re projecting 2017 will be a great year for the UK [market].”