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PRESS: Australian tourism during COVID-19: ‘Expensive’ domestic tourism a barrier to young travellers

Original article published here.

Daphne Lin and Tia Dolan love travelling overseas, but the 24-year-olds are among a large proportion of young Australians reluctant to splurge on domestic holidays.

“I’d like to see more of Australia,” Ms Dolan said. “But realistically it’s expensive. It’s about $150 a day to do anything relaxing. I’m just saving up for when [international] borders open.”

With those borders closed indefinitely, domestic tourism operators have a captive market for Australians wanting a holiday. But they face an uphill challenge convincing some millennials’ that local travel provides value for money, according to data from two separate travel surveys.

Youth publisher Pedestrian Group (owned by Nine, owner of this masthead) surveyed 4980 people aged 18-34 in July and found 38 per cent were delaying booking domestic holidays in the hope international travel would resume soon.

Fifteen per cent of respondents said the biggest barrier to travelling locally was the lack of exciting activities or locations, while 22 per cent said they didn’t know where to travel.

Payment sharing platform Groupee commissioned a poll of 1000 Australians aged 23-38 which found just 21 per cent said domestic holidays provided great value compared to overseas travel, while 54 per cent said travel in Australia was too expensive.

Groupee chief executive Jarred Baker said regional towns have “a huge opportunity to reach [young] people who are dying for something to do”.

Tourism Australia boss Phillipa Harrison acknowledged that price can be a barrier for domestic tourism.

“The reality is the cost of doing business in Australia is just more expensive than it is in a country like Bali,” she told an online tourism conference last week. “We have minimum wages and all those really wonderful things that afford us an incredible lifestyle and that comes with costs – and that is that we are more expensive to travel around.”

Ms Harrison challenged tourism operators to adapt to suit the demands of locals travellers.

“Australians aren’t doing the same experiences that international travellers do,” she said. “There’s this great amount of people who usually … spend a lot of money [and] have an experiential holiday offshore, and we really do need to convince those people that we have very similar experiences here in Australia.”

Domestic destinations popular with younger holidaymakers, such as Byron Bay on the NSW north coast, have become more expensive, while much of Australia’s tourism marketing is directed at adult escapes involving winery tours or luxury lodges.

Sydneysider Ms Lin said after spending just $1000 travelling around Vietnam for 12 days over New Year’s, she spent almost the same amount last week on a five-day visit to the NSW South Coast with a group of friends.

“I absolutely love Australia but there’s something more appealing about travelling to a different country – the culture, the food, meeting people from all over the world,” she said.

Another barrier to travelling domestically was not owning a car, said 35-year-old Melburnian Rowan Bayliss.

“In terms of short breaks it’s a bit harder to get around,” he said. “I’d probably have to organise a hire car and have to worry about taking out insurance. It’s just a bit of a hassle.”

A report last month by Tourism Research Australia said domestic travel “should represent value for money” if Australians are to be convinced to holiday at home.

The report also warned there’s no guarantee the 11 million overseas trips Australians take each year will be funnelled into the local market, because “people who would travel overseas for business or to visit friends and relatives will have no additional reason to travel domestically”.

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