The tourism industry has been one of the fastest growing sectors of the Australian
economy. Recent figures show that in 1997–98 the tourism industry directly contributed
$25 billion to Australia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). At the same time,
indirect contributions to GDP from tourism totalled another $24 billion.
These latest figures indicate that the total contribution of the tourism industry
equates to a healthy 9 per cent of Australia’s GDP, much more than
was previously thought.
The benefits of this strong economic performance are enormous. The tourism
industry is a key employer in Australia, directly providing jobs for 78,000
workers in 2001. Additionally, the flow-on of people employed indirectly by
the tourism industry, in areas such as retail and hospitality, whilst difficult
to quantify, is also significant.
As strong as the performance of the tourism industry has been in recent years,
few observers were prepared for the sharp downturn in domestic and international
tourism that occurred in September 2001. The terrorist attacks on the World
Trade Center and Pentagon on 11 September 2001 have had far-reaching political
and social effects, and the tourism industry, too, has been severely affected.
Almost overnight, the number of people travelling on domestic and international
flights decreased dramatically. Not surprisingly, the hijacking of domestic
flights in the US and the subsequent use of these planes as terrorist weapons
convinced many people to cancel business trips and vacations and to stay at
home. As international tourism and travel suffered, airlines were forced to
cancel flights, lay off workers and to scrap planes that were suddenly too costly
to maintain while they sat idle on airport runways.
Even though Australia was relatively remote from the scene of the terrorist
attacks, the downturn in tourism was still keenly felt. Visitor arrivals to
Australia in September 2001 fell away sharply, suffering a drop of 11.9 per
cent when compared with those for the month of September in the previous year.
In the lead-up to the peak summer season, and in conjunction with other domestic
complications such as the collapse of Ansett Airlines, the Australian tourism
industry was dealt an untimely blow.
Uncertain international times and the war on terrorism that began in October
2001 have delayed the recovery of international travel and tourism. This Atlas
Update will consider some of the strategies that have been used to encourage
the recovery of the Australian tourism industry and look at how industry players
have endeavoured to restore public confidence in airline travel.