Earlier this month, Queensland Airports boss Amelia Evans was reported by the Courier-Mail as saying that travel was bouncing back strongly. Queensland Airports operates the Gold Coast, Townsville, Mount Isa, and Longreach airports, so Ms Evans would have a good idea of what’s happening with travel in Queensland. Certainly the data support Ms Evans’s understanding. When reviewing the March Quarter National Accounts released by the ABS a few weeks ago, I was struck by how consumption spending on hotels, cafes, and restaurants had fully recovered to pre-COVID levels in Queensland, while it was still substantially below those levels in NSW and Victoria, and, as a result, nationally (see chart below). Incredibly, there is more activity occurring in Queensland’s hospitality sector than in Victoria’s, even though Victoria has 6.6 million people compared with our 5.2 million.
I suspect what has happened is that Queensland has benefited from southerners having travelled here instead of going on an overseas holiday, and this has largely made up for a lack of international tourists coming to Queensland. NSW and Victoria may need to wait for international tourism to return to pre-pandemic levels for their hospitality sectors to fully recover.
Of course, the aggregate data don’t tell us what’s happening with individual businesses, and there are many Queensland businesses that were very badly affected by the loss of international tourism, and which really need it to return, including Townsville’s Billabong Sanctuary, for example. In mid-February, ABC News reported Queensland tourism operators predict slow recovery as international border reopens. It may seem like slow going, but thankfully international visitors are starting to return and the upward trajectory is encouraging, as this chart downloaded from the ABS website shows.
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