Australia’s stimulus package has been like no other … for tourism operators in Fiji, New Zealand, Britain, the US and Canada.
All received record inflows of Australian tourists in July as an extraordinary 560,400 of us fled Australian shores, 17 per cent more than a year earlier, and almost 10 per cent more than the previous record set in June.
Short-term departure totals compiled by the the Bureau of Statistics show a jump in December at the time of the $8.7 billion round of bonus payments followed by a bigger jump in May after $11 billion of payments in March and April.
The figures are seasonally adjusted and so reflect more than the traditional Australian desire to head north for the winter.
Unusually, New Zealand benefited the most from the rush overseas, gaining 97,100 Australian visitors in July, one in every six departures and more than Europe. Despite the coup, a record 24,300 of us visited Fiji, up 29 per cent on a year before, and 44,500 of us went to Indonesia, despite the Jakarta bombings mid-month, up 46 per cent on a year before.
However, only 437,000 foreign tourists came here, a slide of 13 per cent.
The managing director of the Tourism Task Force, Christopher Brown, said he saw an upside. ”It follows that for so many Australians to fly out of the country, the same number of seats must be coming into the country. So we should be looking to fill as many of them as possible.
”That means tactical marketing campaigns in the countries that Australians are flying to. The airlines are playing their part, reducing fares to stimulate demand and the fact that Australians are taking advantage of the cheap fares shows it’s possible to do it,” he said.
”We are being bombarded with TV ads inviting us to come across the ditch. New Zealand’s Prime Minister, John Key, is also its Tourism Minister. We should be doing the same thing.”
Queensland’s Premier, Anna Bligh, doubts that extra spending on advertising is needed. She told the National Press Club yesterday that its most successful campaign was its viral ”Best Job in the World” internet competition which attracted 7500 on-line job applications for the post of ”caretaker” at Hamilton Island.
The head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, paid tribute to the stimulus measures of countries such as Australia in a speech in Berlin overnight, saying that ”thanks to concerted and forceful policy actions” the global crisis had been contained. But he pleaded with leaders not to withdraw their stimulus measures until the global recovery had taken hold.
”Policymakers should err on the side of caution,” he said, noting that inflation would not be a concern until the recovery was ”clearly under way”.
In London this weekend the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, and other G20 finance ministers will consider the timing of withdrawal of stimulus measures.