Interview on Channel 7, Sunrise, with David Koch
David Koch: Now for more on the Federal Government's plan to boost the number of visitors to Australia, we're joined by Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham who's in Canberra. Minister, thanks for your time. What are you hoping to achieve with these talks today?
Simon Birmingham: Hello Kochie. Well these are unprecedented times for our tourism operators around the country. In the last month, we've seen bookings slide by 56 per cent. And so what we'll be doing today is meeting with state and territory tourism ministers, getting a full understanding of where the pain is being felt greatest, providing them with information from the Chief Medical Officer to make sure tourism industries around the country are well-informed about how to handle this. But all of it will provide input into the government response that we are developing to help people through these tough times, to protect businesses, to protect jobs, to ensure that we are as well-placed as possible to bounce out of this when this crisis is over.
Natalie Barr: Yeah it's huge, isn't it? You've got bookings from the US falling by 57 per cent in one week, bookings from China falling to virtually nothing and they are huge for us. Realistically, what can you do to turn it around?
Simon Birmingham: So there's no silver bullet that means we can simply back fill the lost tourists coming into Australia. What we are still doing is working targeted tactically in markets like the United States and the United Kingdom to make sure that we still get our fair share of those people who are still willing to travel. And there's an $11 million campaign which means if you're travelling on the London Underground or in the New York Tube, that the odds are you're going to see some images of Australia that hopefully inspire you to book right now. But also provide that hope once a crisis like this is over and puts Australia at the front of people's intentions.
David Koch: Because that's what I was going to ask. We're telling people not to go overseas, but to holiday here in Australia. How can we convince overseas tourists to come here and not do exactly the same where they are?
Simon Birmingham: So our Holiday Here this Year message came out of the bushfires, and this is the double hit that Australia's tourism industry is facing - first the bushfires, now COVID-19. But what we want to do is make sure that in those international markets, firstly, we don't vanish from sight. You know, travel intentions are long time intentions - people make decisions six, nine, 12, 18 months in advance of travel. And frankly, while people are feeling a bit down and glum in a world that's full of uncertainty, we want to make sure that the opportunity for escapism is there to actually think about well, Australia would be a great place to come in the future. But also not to lose the potential bookings of those who will still travel, who will take advantage of cheap fares that airlines are offering, discount opportunities. And our tourism operators need every visitor they can get at present and certainly for viewers out there, we would still encourage them to holiday here in Australia this year and the best thing you can do to protect Australian jobs is to make a booking.
David Koch: Yeah, good point.
Natalie Barr: Yep. Especially off the back of the bushfires. Simon Birmingham, thanks for your time this morning.
Simon Birmingham: Thank you guys. My pleasure.