The combined effects of the September 11 attacks and the collapse of Ansett have actually worked in Australia’s favour, according to national lobby group Tourism Task Force.
Addressing an impressive turnout at a Property Council industry luncheon earlier this month, Stephen Albin, deputy chief executive of Tourism Task Force, said that if either event had occurred separately, our tourism market would be in far worse shape. Instead, together they had caused a unique supply/demand effect on Queensland tourism.
“The effects of September 11 have of course impacted on consumer confidence in travel,” he said, “but compared to other world disasters such as the Gulf War and the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the dual collapses of Ansett and the World Trade Centre created a unique situation.
“With the tragedy of September 11, Australia was affected by a problem of demand, and the subsequent loss of Ansett created domestic supply issues,” he said.
“If they had occurred separately, it could have spelt disaster, However, both together, it’s wasn’t that bad for Australia.”
Koen Rooijmans, managing director and CEO of Brisbane Airport Corporation, also speaking at the event, said that the future of Ansett was “manageable”.
“But is the damage caused by the collapse of the World Trade Centre? Possibly, but possibly not. We will have to wait and see,” he said.
Mr Rooijmans maintained that the demise of Ansett actually began 11 years ago, and not on September 14, like originally thought.
“Ansett had crew and maintenance costs that were just too high. We have a generous aviation market in Australia. If you don’t make money you are doing something wrong.”
Mr Rooijmans added that the Board of Ansett was making the mistake of fighting for the rights of Ansett owners, and not for the rights of company.
“The best outlet for Ansett would have been one-and-a-half years ago, when it had the opportunity of being taken over by Singapore Airlines.
Mr Albin added that contrary to recent reports, “big business” had been affected by the two events, however this would flow on to small business in time. He also said that the aviation sector was also a big loser, and more importantly, those employed in casual or unskilled labour were the hardest hit.
“However, despite these setbacks, there are also some winners. The rail and drive markets are booming as a result of consumers too afraid to fly, and accommodation bookings on the Gold and Sunshine Coasts are going through the roof.
“Before the collapses, the aviation sector was suffering, as were capital city lodgings, with Sydney the hardest hit. Now, according to statistics, more Australians are travelling overseas now than before the crises.
“With the fall of Ansett it was cheaper for Australians to travel overseas than it was to fly domestically.”
Mr Albin said that capital markets would most likely turn their backs on tourism, creating some “very tough” times ahead.
“We need to fund more marketing of Australia overseas. Demand must be the order of the day,” he said.
Mr Rooijmans said that what the tourism market in this country desperately needed was more competition.
“Real open skies is what we need – and open competition. Virgin Blue has proven that good deals can be sustainable. You just need organisation.
“Brisbane needs to do three things to increase tourism performance: we need joint promotion between the Australian Tourism Corporation and other organisations overseas; we need open skies – it is the only way to go forward in aviation; and we need no-frills aviation.
“Australia has been dominated for far too long by aviation directed too much at high-end users.”
The Property Council of Australia, Queensland Division, has a vested interest in the Queensland tourism industry, with many of Brisbane’s most important decision makers in this arena sitting on its Tourism Committee.
Property Council, Queensland Division executive director Mark Miller said he would like to thank the speakers for their interesting and innovative ideas.
“We see the survival and the strength of the Tourism Committee as being important for the Queensland economy overall, and particularly the property sector,” he said.