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Aussie tourists abandon Europe

Fewer Australians visited Spain in the first three months of this year compared with 2015. Picture: Supplied

Robyn IronsideNews Corp Australia Network

TERRORISM fears, the weaker dollar and better deals elsewhere are driving Australians away from Europe as a holiday destination.

Latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show visitor numbers to normally popular countries like Italy, Greece and Turkey have declined between 12 and 35 per cent in the first three months of 2016.

France, Switzerland, Spain and Croatia are also experiencing downturns following on from heightened terror warnings in the wake of the Paris attacks last November.

At the same time the Australian dollar has fallen against the euro, to be worth just 64 cents, sending budget conscious travellers to better value destinations like Bali and New Zealand.

The Aussie dollar doesn’t go as far in Europe this year. Picture: John Donegan

The Aussie dollar doesn’t go as far in Europe this year. Picture: John DoneganSource:Supplied

University of Technology Sydney tourism lecturer David Beirman said terror fears and the Syrian refugee crisis had undoubtedly made Europe less attractive to Australians.

“You hear of terrorism in one part of Europe and the perception seems to spread that other parts of Europe are also dangerous,” said Mr Beirman.

“When there is a bit of uncertainty in a long-haul destination, people tend to travel closer to home to places they perceive as more welcoming and safer.”

He said the exchange rate would also be having a big dampening effect on European holidays.

“When our dollar was rising really high, up to the early part of 2015, Aussies generally were going in huge numbers to Europe,” Mr Beirman said.

“So from that perspective they’re coming down off a pretty big peak.”

Deakin University terrorism expert Greg Barton said the nature of the Paris and Brussels attacks was particularly frightening for travellers.

Grieving Belgians gather on Place de la Bourse square to pay tribute to victims of the terror attacks. Picture: AFP/Aurore Belot

Grieving Belgians gather on Place de la Bourse square to pay tribute to victims of the terror attacks. Picture: AFP/Aurore BelotSource:AFP

“In Paris, what we saw was people doing ordinary things on a Friday night, who were targeted. That was scary for everyone,” said Professor Barton.

“Then the Brussels Airport attack made people question where they would be safe if not in an airport. That tipped the balance for some people.”

Further attacks seemed likely and not just in Europe, Prof Barton said.

Southeast Asia is particularly vulnerable and we know there’s been plans made (for terrorism attacks) in Australia,” he said.

“It seems to be essential to (Islamic State’s) sense of survival. It’s a strong brand and they want to keep it strong.”

Italy is losing its magnetism for Aussie travellers with numbers of visitors falling this year. Picture: Supplied.

Italy is losing its magnetism for Aussie travellers with numbers of visitors falling this year. Picture: Supplied.Source:Supplied

Head of Leisure Travel at Flight Centre, Tom Walley said they had certainly seen a softening in demand for Europe this year.

“One of the main reasons for the shift in traveller attention from Europe is that the world is so much more accessible and much cheaper to get to than ever before,” said Mr Walley.

“The introduction of low-cost carriers has really opened up Asian destinations and airfares at the lowest prices they have ever been to South America, the US and Canada.”

Mr Beirman said Europe remained the most visited region in the world, but other destinations were marketing themselves effectively to Aussies.

“Australians are certainly going increasingly to Southeast Asia and the Pacific, and in larger numbers to North and South America,” he said.

“It’s possible many of us have done Italy, France and Spain are now looking further afield.”

WINNERS AND LOSERS


WINNERS

Indonesia: Australian visitor numbers up 12.3 per cent in first quarter of 2016 — with 274,900 compared with 244,600 for same period last year. Over six months to March 31, 2016, 553,900 Aussies visited Indonesia compared with 530,300 in previous corresponding period.

New Zealand: Visitor numbers up 7.6 per cent in first quarter of 2016, compared with first quarter of 2015. 358,600 to 333,000. Over six months — the figures were 729,400 to March 31, 2016 and 685,300 in previous corresponding period.

United States: Visitor numbers up 5.2 per cent from 193,400 (Jan-March 2015) to 203,600 (Jan-March 2016). Over six months the figures were 469,700 (to March 31, 2016) compared with 451,900 (previous corresponding period).

Picturesque New Zealand is seeing an upswing in Aussie visitors. Picture: Phil Hoffmann Travel

Picturesque New Zealand is seeing an upswing in Aussie visitors. Picture: Phil Hoffmann TravelSource:Supplied

LOSERS

Turkey: Visitor numbers down 35.8 per cent in first quarter of 2016, compared with first three months of 2015. (3400 visitors in the first three months of 2016, compared with 5300 in the first three months of 2015. For the six months to March 31, 2016 — 9600 Australians visited Turkey, compared with 11,300 in the previous corresponding period.)

France: Down 6 per cent. 13,900 visitors for the first three months of 2016 compared with 14,800 in the first quarter of 2015. For the six months to March 31, 2016, 38,000 Australians visited France compared with 41,100 in the previous corresponding period.

Switzerland: Down 9 per cent. 3900 in first quarter of 2016, compared with 4300 in 2015. Over six months, 9400 Aussies visited, compared with 11,600 the previous year.

Italy: Down 12.8 per cent. 14,300 Australians visited in the first quarter of 2016, compared with 16,400 in the first quarter of 2015. Over six months, 40,500 Australian visitors were recorded, compared with 38,300 the previous corresponding period.

Greece: Down 15 per cent. 2700 Australians visited in the first quarter of 2016, compared with 3200 in the first quarter of 2015. Over six months to March 31, 2016, 7600 Australians visited compared with 7700 in the previous corresponding period.

Spain: Down 4.5 per cent. 6300 Australians visited in the first quarter of 2016, compared with 6600 in the first quarter of 2015. Over six months to March 31, 2016, 17,500 Australians visited, up from 14,900 in the previous corresponding period.

Croatia: Down 50 per cent. 600 Australians visited in the first quarter of 2016, compared with 1200 in the first quarter of 2015. Over six months to March 31, 2016, 2300 Australians visited, the same as in the previous corresponding period.

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