Where does Tourism & Hospitality head from here?
Whenever times are uncertain, people inevitably look to create some certainty in their lives, to regain some sense of control. Unfortunately, attempting to future-gaze with any degree of accuracy is almost impossible – with or without a crystal ball!
Considering the immense impact the COVID-19 shutdown has had on what is a critical industry for both our lifestyle and our economy in Australia – much of which we fear we are yet to see – what general trends or developments, if any, do we see?
At the very core of what a recovery looks like lies the impact that ‘social distancing’, fear of illness, distrust of others as a source of infection and an acute awareness of the proximity of others will have on our attitudes. We can only speculate on what segments in society are more likely than others to carry the COVID-19 “paranoia” forward – but it may well be that they are those who earn more and are probably more prone to being self-absorbed or fearful. This may translate to a bigger hit in up-market establishments than other industry sectors. Conversely, the economics of large social gatherings for sports and live entertainment may possibly be viewed as a higher risk for infection (of whatever type) than previously and cause people to consider whether they want to be in the middle of a large pool of fluid transfer! People’s paranoia (if carried forward) may mean that hospitality venues, vessels and sites can no longer seat as many due to people’s concerns with proximity to one another.
Alternatively, everyone might just leave the fear behind and get on with returning their lives to something very similar to what they were before. As a rule we are a sociable nation, with fairly good health and a very good health system – so there’s probably absolutely no need to think that the ‘old ways’ present any more significant a risk to our health than some form of socially-distanced future. Truth be told, we have absolutely no idea what may happen.
Of more concern, though, is waiting to see how many well-established and loved hospitality & tourism businesses simply shut their doors – and what the flow-on effect is. Our vibrant wine industry is currently struggling to store the new vintages being bottled as current vintage is macerating away, because restaurants, cafes and bars are a huge part of their sales-base. If demand doesn’t go back to pre COVID-19 levels, this may mean some of them just can’t stay open. The suppliers to the tourism, hospitality and associated industries may find themselves with so many bad debts due to the collapse of businesses that they are unable to continue. The lack of international travellers until at least the end of the year will mean that there are significantly less customers and significantly less workers available until well into next year. That could mean another wave of closures, and impacts – and on it goes.
However, on the up-beat side of things, here’s something else to consider.. The fact that people can’t leave Australia without being quarantined when they return – or get into it from other countries – may mean that a lot of dollars destined for foreign shores remain here for the next 6-12 months – helping to prop up the local industry. Having sought out new and interesting destinations locally, it may be that a significant proportion of those who would head off overseas annually may decide to avoid the scourges of international travel and keep exploring this vast country – and be delighted by it! People who have lost work in other industries may find new opportunities in tourism & hospitality because there will be a lot fewer people traveling from overseas to satisfy demand through the peak season just on the doorstep.
Do we really have any idea what is going to happen over the coming months? No. Are we hopeful on the basis that we are resilient, we have a beautiful country with amazing produce and great hospitality? You Bet!