With local and international borders opening and COVID restrictions easing right across Australia, State and Federal governments are heralding a “return to normality”. They are talking up the importance of reinvigorating the economy and stressing the need for Australians to start spending again in key industries like Hospitality, Retail and Tourism.
Our news bulletins are showing happy “tourists” entering Australia and we are told hundreds of International students are also coming back in.
The flip side is that daily numbers of new COVID cases are still in their thousands and parents are only just cautiously taking their kids back to school, with vaccination still a scary option for many.
So, after 2 years of lockdowns and a constant focus on health and COVID prevention, how confident are Australians about resuming their ‘normal’ lives? Are they ready to rush out and embrace the life a lack of restrictions puts on offer, or are they still pretty cautious?
By looking at how our national sample* is responding to the questions we are putting to them each month, we get some very clear indications.
Despite Government rhetoric, it looks as though Australians are still adopting more of a ‘wait and see’ approach.
If we look at how optimistic Australians were feeling about the year ahead in January, only 29% thought it would be Better than 2021. The number expecting 2022 to be worse than 2021 was a pretty high 18%.
If we compared how likely they were to take a holiday in Australia or overseas back in November last year, with how likely they are to travel today, there is no significant change. One in five Aussies were planning a regional trip within their State in the next 3 months back in Nov: exactly the same number think they will do that between now and May. Only 6% thought they’d go overseas last November: today it’s fallen to 4%. 17% said they’d make an Interstate trip: today it’s 14%.
Definitely no signs of a significant Tourism or travel uptick.
If we look at how many people personally expect to welcome overseas visitors in the next 12 months, we find only 8% “definitely” expect to see family or friends visit them. Hardly the Inbound Tourism tsunami the government is predicting. More like a trickle.
If you put all of this data together, you’d have to say Australia is not about to return to the pre-COVID life and spending the government is encouraging, or craving. It looks more like a “new normal”, where people are more circumspect about travel, the year ahead and the kind of life they are going to live.
And who can blame them? After two years of uncertainty and enforced behavioural change, perhaps the fear of the next COVID strain makes them feel like they are in a real-life game of Snakes and Ladders? Edge your way forward, but watch out for the big snake on the next square, as it could send you way back to where you started.
Hospitality, Retail and Tourism may have to wait a while before they see the kind of dollars they enjoyed pre-COVID.
*courtesy Ovation Research