IMES are tough, but Australia is really getting it in the neck.
Recent revelations revealed a gloomy outlook for Australian tourism, despite some smart offers to entice visitors, such as the return of the £10 pom.
But this is the self-styled Land of Wonder we’re talking about here, where sitting on a desert island blogging about the Great Barrier Reef is deemed to be the best job in the world.
Could it be that the world loves Australia slightly less than it used to?
YOUR SAY: How can we save Aussie tourism?
In fact, tourism to Australia has changed a lot over the past few years. Once the preserve of long-stay backpackers and once-in-a-lifetime visits to Uncle Reg in Albury only, now stays can be as short as a week and attract all types and budgets.
What this means is Australia is competing far more with other countries – countries which also have beaches, rainforest, harbour cities and a warm welcome.
They may be cheaper. They may be more different than home, and more exotic.
Maybe your mates are more impressed that you went to Zanzibar, or Micronesia. Maybe in the headlong rush to show that you can get to Australia for less and stay for a shorter time a little bit of the magic associated with a once-in-a lifetime trip has worn off.
Distance and expense brings a scarcity value that’s hard to replace, no matter how interesting a place you are.
The competition may also be closer. And this is one thing that hasn’t changed.
Regardless of how much it costs, Australia remains a long flight from Europe and North America.
Even on a great flight you still get off the plane feeling like someone’s coated you in a film of greasy dust.
It takes at least two days to get to Australia and back from much of the main tourist countries. And there’s not much Australian authorities can do about this.
Discount flights might mean a cheaper trip to Australia, but it also means plenty of other places are, too.
I don’t think things are terminal. In fact, Australia’s attractions mean it has a brighter future than almost anywhere else.
It’s just that perhaps in publicising Australia’s beauty and culture, authorities may have lost sight of what visitors really want.
So, in no particular order, here’s how to get the world flocking back in droves and raving about the country on their return:
– Kangaroos to be introduced onto the streets of Sydney and Melbourne
– Turn up the volume on the great Australian sense of humour: tell Lara Bingle to keep her togs on and get Kenny the toilet cleaner to run through some reasons to come to Australia on holiday
– More big things. However many there are, it’s not enough
– Launch a media campaign to portray the recent (relative) decline in Australian sporting prowess as a generous gift to the world. In exchange, foreigners can now visit without fear of (much) mockery
OK, so the last idea might be a stretch, but, as I said, times are tough.