Tourism Tasmania COVID-19 Insights

4 June 2020

Our first step towards the rebuild.

If there’s one thing that we know we can rely on through this strange time in history, it is that things will change – regularly and consistently. As we stepped in to restrictions in a staged manner, so we are stepping out, keeping a watch on ‘active cases’, waiting for the government’s latest announcements, thinking about what this means for us personally, and the community as a whole. This week, as we embrace the newest change where Tasmanians can now access accommodation, go camping and eat at restaurants with up to 40 people, we expect the industry to be wondering about how people are feeling about taking up these opportunities. So we’re sharing with you our thinking on how things are going and the latest insights we have from research we’ve been conducting and gathering from many sources.

Can the past help us look into the future?

Sadly, none of us owns a crystal ball, so we’re working off our knowledge, research & insights, which are probably a bit more reliable anyway. Firstly, there’s a lot of value in thinking about what we already know about how visitors have travelled in the past. In previous years, we have had a reasonably good idea of what is going to happen each month as it is similar to what happened in the same month the year before – the dial we were moving was on an incremental scale. Now, we are looking at scales completely off the dial, with drops in the 90% range, or even larger.

So what has changed in these markets? Will Tasmanians take the opportunity of having fewer visitors in the state to travel more prolifically in the coming months? Can we expect that people will more or less go back to what they were doing before, if given the opportunity through lifted restrictions and flight availability? How big has the economic impact been on our markets – will they still be able to afford to travel? Is COVID-safety a major barrier or concern, or are people less worried than we think? We don’t necessarily know all of the answers to these questions, but we are getting some indications. Here are our top 4 observations on what we think might be likely to return and what might be likely to change:

  1. Tasmanians will be travelling.

    Whilst we don’t know exactly when, we do know that Tasmanians intend to travel within in the next year. Our latest research shows that 68% of Tasmanians are planning to take a holiday or overnight trip in Tasmania is the next 12 months, compared with only 23% planning to go interstate. Of those travelling within Tasmania, 70% are planning a holiday staying in commercial accommodation, and 47% are planning to go caravanning or camping. 75% are planning to visit friends and relatives, and 32% are planning a trip to their shack.

    This is pretty good news for the Tasmanian tourism industry, as this shows a high intention of Tasmanians to travel – an estimated overall market of about 275,000 people. Even more encouraging is that 72% of people planning a holiday said they expected to spend over $500. On average, those planning a holiday in paid accommodation expected to spend about $965 on their trip.

    In addition to this, people taking day trips in Tasmania will also contribute to the economy, with 75% of people expecting to take a day trip in the next 12 months. These people expect to spend an average of $169 on a day trip. Tourism Tasmania’s ‘Make Yourself At Home’ campaign is working hard to improve these figures even more, by inspiring Tasmanians to go out and enjoy their state – we’re hoping to see that 15% of people not planning to take a day trip at all decrease to single figures.

  2. The East Coast is top of the list…

    …and it’s not Freycinet. After Hobart, St Helens (19%) was the most mentioned destination when people were asked an open-ended question about what their top three destinations for an overnight holiday were. We suspect that, aside from the glorious beaches and delightful locals, a key to the attraction is the new mountain biking product recently launched in the area. Additionally, the availability of a range of accommodation styles may also be contributing to the appeal – people know they will be able to find a booking.

    Launceston was also popular, with 18% naming it on their list, followed by Cradle Mountain (16%), Strahan (12%), Bicheno (12%) and Stanley (9%). In terms of regions, the North West (43%) was next most popular to the East Coast (53%), followed by the North (39%), South (33%), Hobart & Surrounds (25%) and then the West Coast, with 21% of travellers naming it on their list.

    This list of places Tasmanians want to go in the state is diverse and long – indicating a depth of opportunity for the industry to tap into.

  3. Safety and familiarity is important, but there are other barriers to travel.

    We’ve already mentioned that broader research is showing that the assurance of safety is critical to travellers across Australia when they’re planning their next trip. Further research is showing that people are more inclined to return to places they’ve been before or to travel to places that are familiar to them. For many people, now is not the time for exploring new horizons, but rather they are seeking places they feel confident will be clean and safe. This may include opting for more self-contained styles of accommodation where people feel they can control their own environments.

    The Tasmanians we spoke to who were not travelling were mostly constrained by money and/or time. Of the people who didn’t intend to travel in Tasmania, 15% indicated they would like to but couldn’t afford it, and 11% said they didn’t have time. A small number had no desire to travel within Tasmania, and an even smaller number indicated that they were concerned about safety and/or health reasons. This small degree of safety concern may be an indication of a broader phenomenon we are seeing in the Tourism Information Monitor, which shows that safety concerns are relatively low compared with other barriers. Although about 34% of travelling Australians are still concerned about the risks of COVID-19 in travelling to Tasmania. Whilst we hope this figure will decrease, indications are that comparatively, Tasmania is seen to be a safe and clean place.

  4. People still want to come to Tasmania

Whilst around 150,000 Tasmanians are saying that they are planning trips within the state instead of going interstate or overseas, the state has also maintained a high level of desirability for travelling Australians. The Urban List, whose readers are generally big fans of Tasmania didn’t disappoint last week when in an unprompted survey of 5,500 people they named Tasmania or Melbourne (depending on age group) as the next place they want to travel to in Australia.

Deep dive research from the Tourism Information Monitor indicates that 65% of people are excited about travelling to other destinations in Australia, and that the biggest barrier to people making travel plans is that the arrangements cannot be guaranteed or that the uncertainty in timeframes makes it difficult to book.

The best news in this story is that Tasmania’s brand remains strong. Whilst people are unable to book their holidays right now, there is still a high level of aspiration to visit Tasmania. People are hungry for information specifically about accommodation, food and wine events & festivals, and itineraries & things to do. This presents a great opportunity for operators to engage with customers and share information about what fantastic things they can do when they are able to get on the plane or boat to visit.

Dr Allison Anderson

Manager, Research & Insights

Tourism Tasmania

Read more about consumer behaviour in response to COVID-19