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This time is different: Australia’s tourist numbers may take years to recover

TJ Ryan Foundation Research Associate, John Quiggin, writes in The Conversation (24.2.20) that, with Australia's tourism sector hit hard by the impacts of bushfires and coronavirus, there are good reasons to think it may take a lot longer than in the past for visitor numbers to bounce back.

'Australia’s catastrophic bushfire season has done immense damage to Australia’s tourist industry. Then, just as heavy rain began to bring the situation under control, came the coronavirus outbreak in China – now the top source of international visitors to Australia. Tourism from China, already greatly reduced, ended with the ban on non-citizens travelling from China.

'The general assumption has been that, once the immediate crises are over, Australia’s tourist numbers will bounce back.

'Optimists point to examples such as Japan following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that killed more than 15,000 people, resulted in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster and forced more than 500,000 people to evacuate.

'Tourism to Japan took a hit. International visits in 2011 fell 28%, to 6.2 million from 8.6 million in 2010. By the end of 2012, however, numbers were back to more than 8.3 million. Tourism to the devastated Fukushima region took a little longer to bounce back, but by fiscal 2015 had recovered to nearly 90% of numbers in fiscal 2010.

'... There are, however, good reasons to think this time is different.'


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