The monthly National Visitor Survey snapshot data for October from Tourism Research Australia shows overnight domestic tourism expenditure was up 25% since March, although it remains down 39% from a year earlier. Queensland has seen the best state performance since March with expenditures up 99%, although they remain down 35% for the year.
Within Queensland it has been the regions that have lead the recovery. Overnight domestic tourism expenditure in regional Queensland is up 151% since March, and is down just 15% from a year earlier. A similarly strong story is seen in NSW where state expenditures are up 59% since March (and down only 14% from a year earlier) while regional NSW is up 119% since March (and up 22% over the year).
This data, not surprisingly, accords closely to the annual changes seen in the quarterly NVS to Sept (see commentary here) released a week or so ago. In the quarterly release nationwide expenditure was down 34% y/y (down 39% in this latest Oct release) and QLD was down 32% y/y (down 35% to Oct). The quarterly report, unlike the monthly snapshot, allows us to see data at a more regional level and this showed domestic expenditures in the Tropical North Queensland region were down 35% (i.e. similar to national levels and a little worse than the QLD figures). It is therefore likely that the Oct data for TNQ, were we to see it, would show a decline for the year around the 37-40% range which puts it on a par with South Australia, the ACT and Northern Territory.
Unfortunately for TNQ tourism has traditionally been very reliant on the international sector (international tourism expenditure typically made up about 1/3 of total TNQ tourism revenues in the pre-COVID period) which clearly shows no sign of a return to anything like normal, at least for the rest of 2021 and in all likelihood well into 2022. In those circumstances the region needs to see a huge improvement in their domestic sector performance which at this stage is not evident. Indeed the region is losing domestic share rather than gaining it.
It is because of this that the QLD Premier was in Cairns this week to warn of tourism businesses facing the loss of JobKeeper support at the end of March going ‘off a cliff’.