Travel spend in Australia fell 80% during the June quarter and there was a 67% fall in overnight trips across the country in the three months to June 30, 2020.
Hotels, motels and resorts were were hit hardest with a fall in demand of 83% or 20.9 million nights, to just 4.4 million.
These are among the sobering lowlights of the latest National Visitor Survey from Tourism Research Australia, which for the first time revealed the full impact of COVID on domestic travel.
Key findings include:
Reasons for travel
Australians’ reasons for travel changed due to the impact of COVID-19:
- Holiday trips were most affected across the 2020 June quarter. Overnight trips fell 78% to 2.6 million and spend fell 87% to $1.1 billion.
- Trips to visit friends and relatives (VFR) were down 63% to 3.8 million. Spend was down 81% to $729 million.
- Business trips fell 60% to 2.9 million. Spend fell 73% to $1.7 billion.
The Australian traveller profile has changed due to COVID-19.
Australians usually travel to go on holiday. However since COVID-19, they took more overnight trips and spent more nights away for business-related and VFR travel. In the June quarter 2020:
- business-related visitor nights fell 44% to 14.2 million
- VFR nights fell 61% to 11.4 million
- holiday nights fell 79% to 8.3 million
Domestic overnight spend fell 45% or $17.7 billion to $21.8 billion from January to June 2020. This included losses for:
- holiday—down 43% or $8.1 billion
- VFR—down 45% or $3.6 billion
- business travel—down 51% or $5.6 billion
This greatly outweighed the solid growth recorded overall by each visit purpose across the first half of 2019–20.
Visitor nights fell by 15% for the year ending June 2020 and 62% or 64.0 million for the June quarter 2020.
Most accommodation types have seen significant declines. These falls were much larger for the commercial accommodation sector in June quarter 2020:
- Hotel, motel and resort-style accommodation fell 83% or 20.9 million nights, to just 4.4 million.
- Rented apartments and units fell 71% or 6.1 million nights to 2.5 million.
- Caravan parks and commercial camping grounds fell 70% or 5.4 million nights to 2.3 million.
- Property of a friend or relative fell 57%.
Commercial accommodation saw overnight trip spend fall 78% to $1.1 billion in June quarter 2020. This is significant loss of business in these categories.
Transport used for domestic overnight trips changed significantly in the June quarter 2020:
- Travel by self-drive vehicle accounted for over 90% (9.2 million) of all domestic overnight trips. This was up from 73% on the June quarter 2019.
- In contrast, domestic overnight trips that included air travel fell from 24% to 6%.
This pattern is consistent with travellers preferring to drive to regional areas over visits to capital cities.
Overall, capital cities saw a far more significant fall in domestic overnight visits (78%) than regional areas (61%).