Weathering the storm

With a decline in visiting tourist numbers and a slump in consumer sentiment, promoting our industry is the key to survival.

There has been some discussion over the future of our tourism industry over the past month. While restaurant revenues have continued to grow, tourism inflows have slowed significantly. International visitor numbers slumped in January 2008, falling by 2.6 per cent since January 2007. Considering 2007 was not a strong year, it’s a troubling sign.

The Australian dollar has been blamed for at least part of the downturn and is also considered a significant factor in increasing outbound travel by Australians.

R&CA is working on a range of initiatives to ensure the amount spent by international and domestic tourists compensates for any decline in numbers of arrivals or nights away by domestic travellers. One key project is the promotion of Australia’s food industry to markets that spend more on meals—like the US, Canada and France. Domestically, we also need to promote dining out as a great leisure activity, which is where the Savour Brand comes in.

On the home front, there are signs that consumer sentiment is dampening.  The Westpac Melbourne Institute Consumer Sentiment Index was down 23 per cent in March this year compared to the previous 12 months. Declining consumer sentiment impacts restaurants more than any other industry, as most consumers stop eating out as a first step in spending more conservatively. We need to ensure that we keep talking the market up.

Lets hope the Australian economy will again be able to weather the storm.

John Hart 
CEO, Restaurant & Catering Australia

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