The cooler weather has not dampened results for the tourism sector, with strong sales recorded in the June quarter. Despite entering the traditional off-peak winter trading season, 38 per cent of respondents in the latest Survey of Business Trends and Prospects reported a rise in domestic sales for Victoria’s tourism and recreational services sector. This could be attributed in part to the Easter holiday in April this year, resulting in three public holidays falling within the quarter.
Export activity was also healthy, with almost a third of respondents reporting an increase over the period. Despite steady demand, operational costs such as energy prices continue to impact businesses, with profits declining for more than a quarter of survey respondents (26 per cent). The public holidays would have also resulted in higher wage costs, contributing to increased operational costs.
Victoria Tourism Industry Council Chief Executive Brad Ostermeyer said the results of the survey were encouraging.
“We are pleased to see this level of activity at a traditionally quieter time of year, especially after a subdued March quarter. Victoria has plenty to offer in the cooler months, including the NGV Winter Masterpieces Exhibition, the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and of course it’s footy season,” he said.
Looking ahead to the third quarter of 2017, business conditions are expected to decline. While almost a quarter of respondents expect sales to increase, 29 per cent forecast a decrease. One in four businesses expect a drop in profits and in response, businesses said they were not planning to take on additional staff.
“This reaction from businesses is understandable but it also highlights the importance of year-round events scheduling to attract visitors through typically quieter periods,” Mr Ostermeyer said.
Almost a quarter of tourism businesses surveyed said they were experiencing difficulties in filling skills gaps. To address these skills shortages, respondents in the tourism sector indicated they were looking to poach employees from within the sector, rather than training newcomers.
This is concerning for VTIC as it means the overall skills base for the sector will not grow with demand. It also makes the issue of staff retention even more critical for employers.
“At VTIC’s Victorian Tourism Conference on July 24-25, an industry panel will share the knowledge and strategies around attracting and retaining skilled staff and volunteers, managing seasonality, and developing a strong and sustainable workforce,” Mr Ostermeyer said.