Australia tourist numbers to fall: report

Mon Dec 29, 2008 7:16pm EST
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CANBERRA (Reuters) - Foreign visitor numbers to Australia will hit their lowest point for two decades as a new tourist campaign based around actress Nicole Kidman fails to deflect global recession fallout, the Australian newspaper said.

The number of tourists traveling to Australia would decline from 5.56 million in 2008 to 5.33 million, cutting 4 percent or A$500 million ($345.3 million) from the A$90 billion industry.

"There is no doubt that tourism operators who are heavily reliant on international tourism are in for a tough time in 2009," Tourism Australia's Forecasting Committee chairman Bernard Salt told the newspaper on Tuesday.

Ahead of an official report on the 2009 outlook for the industry, Tourism Australia said the biggest falls would be in visitors from Japan, expected to plummet almost 30 percent from 573,000 in 2007 to an anticipated 407,000 in 2009.

Tourism from China would also stall as Beijing's breakneck GDP growth slowed, crimping visitor numbers to 352,000 from 358,000 last year.

In further grim reading for airlines like Australia's Qantas, major hotel chains and other tourism operators, Salt said fewer Australians would also head overseas as the falling local dollar made outbound travel more expensive.

The market was well-placed to rebound strongly in 2010 if the local dollar remained at low levels, consumer confidence returned and growth in aviation capacity steadied, Salt said.

Industry leaders have already begun a new international advertising campaign to coincide with blockbuster movie "Australia" starring Oscar-winning actress Nicole Kidman. The campaign pitches Australia as a place to "find yourself."

Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson said the new campaign had only just begun and would help Australia cope with the impact of a global downturn.   Continued...