Lies, Damn Lies and Hard Truths in the National Visitor Survey Results
The Federal Government announced yesterday that, Australians travelling domestically for business and to visit friends and relatives are contributing to the best overall domestic tourism figures in four years.
Their report, Travel by Australians March Quarter 2012 (NVS), showed that overnight trips were up five percent, to 73 million in the year ending March 2012, nights stayed increased by six percent, to 279 million, and total expenditure jumped 10 percent, to $50 billion.
These results follow on from a very positive set of numbers recently released through the International Visitor Survey (IVS). The reports may be surprising, but they really are good news In macroeconomic terms it is impossible to dispute the short term trend – the Visitor Industry in Australia is on the up and we are making a serious contribution to the national economy.
By highlighting the fact that the numbers reflect a return to pre GFC levels of business, the Federal Government is drawing a line in the sand and taking a more bullish stance about their own performance and the future of the industry. There is nothing wrong with this interpretation, but as an industry we have to be wary of point to point comparisons.
The NVS and IVS numbers represent a very solid result for Melbourne and perhaps surprisingly regional Victoria. The sheer size of the visitor and expenditure figures may engender some doubt about their validity. They are the established and accepted measure of our industry’s performance and have been for a long time.
As an industry we need to respect the results of the National Visitor Survey and the International Visitor Survey – they help us share a compelling story for our politicians, economists and the broader community. The visitor industry has substance and we make an enormous contribution to Victoria’s socioeconomic wellbeing.
If these positive macroeconomic indicators come as a bit of a surprise, then now is the time to be having a good hard look at your business model. There is nothing to be gained by questioning their veracity, unless of course you are looking for reasons to deflect from your own performance.
The visitor industry is showing strong signs of recovery after a very tough few years. These figures are not granular – they do not show the stress and the strain that many individual businesses (big and small) are feeling with the recent downturn in consumer confidence. At the same time they do provide strong reason for operators to look up from the operational side of their business and take stock. The numbers tell a very good story, but they do not represent a return to business as normal. The industry is transforming; business models are being reworked, traditional source markets reconsidered and conventional marketing strategies turned inside and out.
For Melbourne the message is clear – while we continue to enjoy consistent growth over an extended period, our direct competitors – Sydney and the Gold Coast are on the up. We cannot afford to be complacent and continue trading on the reputation built through past performance. The solid numbers are a source of optimism, but we must continue to put the visitor first and ensure that Melbourne’s unique sense of welcome remains a competitive advantage.
The Full NVS report can be found here.
The Full IVS report can be found here.
See here for a full list of visitor reports.