Sydney Elite Opt to Camp With Rhinos With Mediterranean Off Limits

Australia’s closed international borders are creating a unique opportunity for tourism operators to tap previously inaccessible domestic markets, as long as additional regions aren’t returned into lockdown.

Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo, a five-hour drive west of Sydney, provides luxury camping -- or glamping as commonly known -- on the New South Wales plains among giraffes, rhinos, lions and zebras. It’s proving popular with wealthy Sydneysiders who are barred from spending their southern hemisphere’s winter vacations abroad.

Sydney Elite Opt to Camp With Rhinos With Mediterranean Off Limits

Last year, Australians heading overseas outnumbered foreigner visitors Down Under by 2.1 million people and spent 1.5 times more offshore. So, if vacationing at home becomes a trend, that represents a big opportunity to domestic businesses.

“It’s just been incredible,” said zoo director Steve Hinks, who reckons he’s never fielded so many inquires in such a short space of time. “What we are seeing is a new part of the Sydney market that we haven’t seen before. If we seize this opportunity and wow these visitors then we have the chance to keep them coming again.”

That prospect is a relief for a region that has suffered three years of their worst drought on record. At a macro level, an inward turn by Australian tourists could also be a boon for the entire economy as it reopens.

Still, renewed blocks to movement across the country amid a jump in virus cases could end up spoiling business excitement during the mid-year school holidays, typically a peak travel period for families.

New South Wales and Victoria, the two most populous states, shut their border this week and the Melbourne metropolitan area was returned to lockdown as authorities struggle to contain a second wave of Covid-19 infections. Other states are yet to completely reopen borders that were closed after the initial outbreak in March.

What Bloomberg’s Economists Say

“International tourism is an important contributor to Australia’s economy, particularly the labor-intensive services sector. But for every A$1 of spending inside Australia by international visitors, there is A$1.50 of spending by Australians leaking offshore. The leak is significant, totaling A$18.3 billion over the 12 months to 1Q 2020, equivalent to 1.7% of consumption, and 0.9% of GDP. Retaining spending that Australians have previously undertaken offshore could provide a significant boost to Australia’s economy, more than offsetting lower tourism export earnings.”

James McIntyre, economist

BridgeClimb, an international attraction that takes visitors to the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, is encouraging Sydneysiders to be tourists in their own city. CEO David Hammon called on Australians to support one another and appreciate their beautiful country.

For a certain generation of Australians, family holidays in cars with overnight stays in caravan parks or motels were the norm as international air travel from Australia was prohibitively expensive.

These days, though, falling ticket prices and growing wealth have made distance less of a barrier, so hundreds of thousands of Australians have tended to head to Europe, Asia and America each year, instead of traveling around their own country

But this year is certainly an unusual one.

Dubbo Zoo’s Hinks summed things up this way: “It’s nice to have a moment in the sun.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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