ABS figures growth in accommodation
ACCOMMODATION statistics showing a second consecutive quarter of growth have raised hopes the worst of the tourism downturn might finally be over.
But industry leaders fear the positive trend delivered in the recent Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data for the 2010 September quarter now might be redundant in the wake of the Queensland flood disaster.
Figures showed four of the past five quarters had been positive compared with seven consecutive negative quarters from December 2007 to June 2009.
A total of 152, 156 room nights occupied and accommodation takings of $26,927,968 in last year’s September quarter represented a seven per cent increase from the previous year.
However, with tourism operators still counting the cost of cancellations and lost bookings in January, Port Douglas Chamber of Commerce president Ken Dobbs said the flood’s full impact remained an “unknown quantity”.
“There are a obviously a lot of people in Brisbane, New South Wales and Victoria directly impacted who won’t be taking holidays now and with the prospect of a (flood) levy, there is going to be less money in people’s pockets,” Mr Dobbs said.
“I guess you could say how many would have gone further backward (due to the floods) if this upward trend had not occurred but if you are a tourism operator, you are probably not going to take a whole lot of joy from these figures.
“If we hadn’t had the floods, I suspect we’d have every reason to believe we had hit the bottom and a recovery might not be that far away.
“Now, we just don’t know what the future will bring,” he said.
Mr Dobbs said while not perfect, the ABS data set provided the most consistent and reliable basis for comparison of the key economic drivers.
“Room nights are important because they’re the thing that delivers income to the restaurants, retailers and tour operators,” he said.
“Unfortunately, the statistics do not capture backpackers’ hostels, apartments with less than 15 occupants or private holiday homes which are a prevalent part of the accommodation mix here in Port Douglas.
“You could probably add another 10 per cent to the $67 million annual accommodation takings and it wouldn’t be far off the mark.”
Mr Dobbs said the positive statistical result needed to be taken in the context of previous results.
“It is quite unique to record four out of the past five quarters of positive growth but it is not revolutionary,” he said.
“It is reasonable to think it might be down again in the December quarter and probably again in March.
“I’m not beating any particular drum saying it’s fantastic or not fantastic.
“I just want people to have realistic information to reinforce the fact there is no single factor or simple solution to the challenges we face together.”