30 Dec 2008

Big fall in tourists to Australia in 2009: report

3:12 pm on 30 December 2008

Australia expects to see its biggest drop in overseas visitor numbers in 20 years in 2009-10.

An independent forecasting committee for Tourism Australia says the industry will take $US1.8 billion less in the next two years than was predicted four months ago.

The Tourism Forecasting Committee says inbound travel will fall by 4.1% next year because of the global financial crisis.

The biggest falls are expected to be in visitors from Japan, by almost 30%.

The ABC reports the drop would be the worst since visitor numbers fell by 7.5% in 1989, due to a strike by airline pilots.

The report also says outbound travel will fall by 2.6% - its first downturn since an international outbreak of SARS hit the industry six years ago.

Committee chairman Bernard Salt says the blow will be softened by a dramatic rise in domestic spending, lifting the industry's takings by 0.3% to $A90.6 billion next year.

The Transport and Tourism Forum says Australia's regional tourism hubs will be hardest hit. Executive director Olivia Wirth says airlines and hospitality businesses will also be badly affected.

A recent survey of the industry by the forum found the number of bookings for the first quarter of 2009 were the worst on record.