Tourism operators need Qld Gov’t to continue reopening and not to panic as COVID comes in

There is a lot of excitement about the reopening of Queensland, which can’t come quickly enough, but at least it is actually happening, so long as the Queensland Government holds its nerve and doesn’t reimpose restrictions once COVID cases start rising. Tourism operators in particular need a strong Christmas-New Year period to help make up for big losses since March last year (see the chart below). Operators appear optimistic, thankfully. According to the Courier-Mail, several Queensland tourism operators are on a hiring spree as they prepare for the Christmas-New Year period “after a disastrous 18 months” (see Thousands of jobs on offer at Queensland’s biggest tourism operators). 

While international tourism has been practically non-existent, and the Queensland industry has lost nearly $6 billion of turnover associated with international tourists, domestic tourism spending in 2021 was tracking reasonably well in Queensland up until July and August when interstate border restrictions came in. Various reports suggest that, even though Queenslanders were able to travel for September school holidays, interstate border restrictions did adversely impact many operators. See Some Gold Coast businesses face ‘shocking’ school holidays, others say outlook is sunny and Far North Queensland tourism not bouncing back, school holiday numbers worse than expected. Incidentally, the state government’s tourism vouchers scheme has appeared to have fallen short of its objectives (see 42,000 winners fail to redeem Qld holiday vouchers aimed at boosting tourism).

My best guess at this stage is that domestic tourism spending in Queensland will end up at around $17 billion in 2021 compared with $19.5 billion in 2019. Taking into account almost non-existent international tourism spending, which shrank from $6 billion to $200 million per annum, the Queensland tourism sector, in 2021, has been operating on only two-thirds of the turnover it had pre-COVID. 

I really hope the Queensland Government doesn’t panic. Currently, the state is in a good position to recover further from the pandemic. The October Labour Force data released by the ABS last week showed Queensland leading the states in terms of the level of employment relative to the pre-COVID level (see the Queensland Treasury briefing and the chart below). 

I’d prefer the state government to open up the state earlier than currently planned, and not to proceed with its de facto vaccine mandate which will cost hospitality businesses some trade (e.g. see Central Queensland business owners ‘in tears’ over looming COVID restrictions, meeting organiser says), but I am very pleased that we are reopening, albeit if a little bit too slowly.  

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