• Transcript, E&OE
Topics: Coronavirus.
06 March 2020

Ross Stevenson: Simon Birmingham is the Federal Minister for Tourism. Minister, good morning to you.

Simon Birmingham: Good morning, guys. It’s great to speak.

Ross Stevenson: Hey, so you were able to have a couple of bites at the cherry with the bushfires and now the coronavirus. Are you a little worried we might be jumping the gun here when it comes to promoting Australia as a safe haven?

Simon Birmingham: These are unprecedented tough times for Australia’s tourism industry. In the last month we’ve seen bookings down 56 per cent and so plenty of businesses are doing it tough out there. That’s why the government’s preparing a further response plan to help the economy and particularly to protect jobs and small businesses.

But we can’t give up on the markets where people are still making travel decisions, we want to make sure we get our fair share of those tourists and that we also protect Australia’s tourism industry for the long term. And that’s why we’re targeting carefully into markets like the United States and the United Kingdom to make sure that those who will take advantage of cheap fares and travel experiences still chose Australia as a destination of choice.

Ross Stevenson: Is it just advertising that you’re throwing money at?

Simon Birmingham: Look, as a response to the bushfires and so on, we’re supporting regional communities with events funding and those types of measures as well, and of course all of the small business support that was announced back then.

And as the Treasurer and the Prime Minister have made clear, there’s going to be more support, particularly targeted for the businesses and sectors who are doing it toughest. Tourism is right up there and that support is all about making sure that we keep businesses operating through this downturn in these tough times, keep people in jobs, and make sure that they’re ready to be able to bounce out of it when the crisis is over.

Ross Stevenson: Minister, do you have any evidence that people in America and in the UK will travel — if encouraged to by an advertising campaign — that they will go, yep, I’m going to travel.

Simon Birmingham: We’ve certainly done the research to underpin these campaigns, campaigns promoting the Great Ocean Road, and the Grampians, classic tourism destinations. And we know that it serves two purposes. There are still some who are choosing to travel — less, absolutely. I’m not saying there won’t be a downturn in tourism from the US or the UK, there’s going to be a downturn in every country’s tourism numbers from basically every market.

But we need to make sure we’re there for those who are intending to travel — their money is as good as anybody else’s — and is important to our tourism operators to keep their businesses afloat. And in addition to that, we need to make sure that we’re not absent at times of crisis because frankly, people who are stressed, people who are worried, will actually look and be thinking about a bit of escapism down the track. Travel bookings are often made nine, 12, 18 months into the future and so making sure that Australia is front of mind for those people is important to shape their future determinations and to make sure our industry is strong when we get out of this crisis.

Ross Stevenson: Good on you Minister. Simon Birmingham, Minister for Tourism.