It has been a hard couple months. We have been told by our tourism operators and the government to ‘stay at home.’ In many ways, people have adapted well, finding more time to chat with family, bake, knit or watch Netflix. The pace has slowed, as people work from home, and travel even to and from work was banned. As the restrictions in South Australia to travel locally reduced last week, our tourism operators were likely to have received a much-needed boost in bookings.
In Square Holes’ mind and mood research over recent months it is the simple things people are missing. Going to a restaurant or café, socialising with friends and family and getting back to the simple aspects of everyday freedom they until recently enjoyed.
Many are missing travelling, and either postponed or cancelled travel plans as a result of COVID-19. Travel is all about freedom of escape, and recent times have taken away such a luxury. Much uncertainty exists as to when restrictions will further reduce, particularly for overseas travel. Travel loving South Australians have come to terms with travel being more of a luxury than they’d ever anticipated, particularly overseas travel. They anticipate it will never be the same, with expectations of continued restrictions and changes such as increased prices for some time to come.
“I’m keen to see when overseas travel opens up again. We might be stuck travelling within Australia, maybe New Zealand, for a long time. There’s going to be places we can go and places we can’t go. Whereas before COVID-19, we could go anywhere in the world quite cheaply. I think the days of cheap airfares are going to go away for a while. And I’m just hitting that time of life where I’m doing a bit of travel and I can do it. The kids have long gone and I’m freer.”FOCUS GROUP PARTICIPANT AGED 60-69
Recent years have seen South Australia’s tourism growing strongly. Tourism expenditure grew in South Australia 20% 2018 to 2019 to more than $8 Billion, according to tourism data, twice the rate of growth of the national average. Critical in this is intrastate travel, from within South Australia, accounting for 34% of expenditure, plus an additional 21% from day trips. With international visitors likely to all but disappear and interstate travel in significant decline, tourism operators will be reliant on a bit of parochial tourism activity from locals.
According to Square Holes’ mind and mood survey at the end of April, 28% of South Australians were intending to travel within South Australia in the coming few months. This compares with 18% intending to travel interstate and 8% overseas. The is solid intent to travel within South Australia in coming months, with levels higher amongst 18-39 year olds and 70+ year olds. Overall 18-39 year olds have a stronger overall travel intent locally or otherwise, with 70+ year olds particularly interested in travel within South Australia. Our research is indicating that there is a healthy appetite for new travel experiences.
In a quick survey of 100 South Australians from Square Holes’ research panel at the end of last week, 18% noted that they had booked accommodation or travel to regions in South Australia since travel restrictions opened. There was a good spread of bookings across regions.
Of the accommodation choices, 20% indicated they were booking a powered caravan park / powered site, 40% were hiring a BnB or renting a home, 27% were using their own holiday home and 7% a hotel or motel. Caravanning and camping off-site is also increasingly popular. Many indicated they were likely to book a trip in the next three months with strongest levels recorded for Fleurieu Peninsula (44%), Barossa (34%), Adelaide Hills (33%), York Peninsula (33%) and Clare Valley (25%).
COVID-19 continues to be a barrier for most, named as the biggest reason for not being ikely to travel within South Australia in the next three months (44%), followed by costs (19%), not enough time (11%) and not interested (6%).
“I have money tied up still that I spent on a trip to Perth and Broome and I am still trying to get the funds back.”SURVEY PARTICIPANT
According to SA Tourism, there has been strong growth in visits to southaustralia.com in recent weeks, with daily visits now approaching double same time last year, with particular interest in our regions, boutique accommodation, nature and conservation parks and wider diverse tourism offering across South Australia.
South Australia Tourism actively shared content from our regions and operators as people were advised by government to Stay at Home. Initiatives such as SA.TV have played a critical role in priming viewers to have an insatiable hunger for exploring South Australia, and increase eagerness to book as travel restrictions open up.
Yet, there will be much uncertainty ahead. With economic conditions and personal disposable income tight for some, spending patterns are likely to be cautious. It will be critical for operators to offer a solid tourism offering, and for our regions and wider tourism networks to continue to work strategically to get South Australians off the couch and out of the safety and comfort of home as the fears of COVID-19 calm. It is time to make travel to our regions the default as overseas is off the itinerary for the foreseeable future, and interstate travel likely to continue to be slow.
There are many behaviour change theories and models that will help tourism operators to have a buoyant year ahead. From priming South Australians with content that stimulates an insatiable hunger for travel, and making local travel the norm through respected influencer endorsement. Encouraging locals to share their adventures and making it as easy as possible to book and enjoy a holiday in SA. Many of these a well-used tools of our tourism industry.
Australians love to travel more than watching sport according to a current national survey of Square Holes (N=1,000) focused on what Australians love to do. According to the research, 82% like to travel within their own State (23% love), compared with 87% who like to travel in Australia and 77% overseas.
With the bushfires and COVID-19 this has been a challenging time in for South Australian tourism operators and the broader economy. Yet absence makes the heart grow stronger and tourism operators have potential for strong demand from locals.
You will likely also find this in-depth interview Jason did with Brent Hill of interest. Brent Hill is the Executive Director of Marketing at the South Australian Tourism Commission. This is a most fascinating discussion about marketing and leadership in a topsy turvy world, including empowering the team to ever seek inspiration, and to unlock Edward de Bono’s thinking caps, and not overusing the black hat, encouraging tourism operators to share their story through compelling content, that nowadays does not always need to be of the highest production standards. And, stimulating joy in challenging times is critical.
Square Holes is seeking a small number of partners in the mind and mood research we have been conducting to help make sense of the impact on South Australians.