Wine tourism numbers highlight COVID-19 challenges and the road forward

Market Bulletin | Issue 228
24 Nov 2020
tagged with market bulletin , tourism
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COVID-19 has brought much uncertainty when it comes to travel in 2020. Just as borders between some Australian states were opening to welcome interstate travelers, others were closed to combat new clusters. With some interstate travel halted, tourism turned intrastate with locals taking the opportunity to explore their own backyards – where restrictions allowed – providing much needed relief in many regional areas.

From an international perspective, with very limited tourism travel to Australia, the regular collection of survey data from international visitors in June quarter 2020 ceased. Despite this, like many wine businesses adapting to find new ways to reach customers and keep them engaged, Tourism Research Australia used advanced statistical techniques to impute high level results only for the June quarter 2020; our Bulletin draws the data from this inferred data.

Domestic tourism results since national lockdown 

Despite the bumpy road, many Australians have been able to continue travelling within the limitations set by each State and Territory Government.

When looking at the monthly results between March 2020 to August 2020 for total domestic overnight travel, there has clearly been increases in visitors travelling to regional Queensland (QLD) since April 2020 and up until July 2020 for regional New South Wales (NSW) and Western Australia (WA). The impact of the complete lockdown in Victoria can also be seen in the graph below.

Figure 1: Domestic overnight travel estimates since national lockdown in regional areas and smaller states and territories

Source: Tourism Research Australia’s National Visitor Survey

Australians visiting wineries

In year ending June 2020, there were 6.3 million day and overnight visits to wineries – this was down 25 per cent on the previous year. The fall in numbers came equally from overnight and day trips, which represented 55 per cent and 45 per cent respectively. Average spend per domestic visitor that went to a winery was still higher than the overall result ($722 compared to $286 for all visitors).

The effect on visits to wineries in wine regions1 was also greatly impacted with nearly all experiencing a fall on the previous 12 months. This impact varied across the top 10 most visited wine regions with Tasmania, the Hunter and Barossa Valley experiencing the greatest loss in numbers.

Figure 2: Top 10 – domestic day and overnight visitors that visited wineries in wine regions during year ending June 2020 (label refers to change on previous 12 months)

Source: Tourism Research Australia’s National Visitor Survey

International tourism results since lockdown

From an overall inbound tourism perspective, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reported 10,300 short-term arrivals during the September quarter 2020. This compares to 2.3 million in the September quarter last year.

Figure 3: Short-term visitor arrivals to Australia by month

Source: ABS Overseas Arrivals and Departures, Australia

Internationals visiting wineries

With no recorded visits to wineries in the June 2020 quarter, results showed that in year ending June 2020 there were 729,000 visits to wineries and down 28 per cent on the previous year. The decline was consistent with the overall result leading to the share of winery visits remaining at 12 per cent. Average spend per trip increased by 3 per cent to $1171 with the fall in expenditure less than the fall in visitors.

The loss of international tourism has been felt across most regions of Australia.

Figure 4: International visits to wineries and share of total visits

Source: Tourism Research Australia’s International Visitor Survey

Wine tourism going forward

With so much uncertainty around COVID-19 and the ever increasing number of cases in key international inbound tourist markets for Australia, it is assumed by some researchers that inbound tourism will not resume until the end of 2021 at the earliest, but will have recovered by 2024 (Source: IWSR). Tourism Australia are remaining active in markets and provide regular updates via their website

Many Australians have been switching their exotic overseas holiday locations to travel to ‘back pocket’ places in Australia and it is hoped that this will replace the loss in international tourism. While some argue that the gap will not be filled and the recent interest being felt is short term, it remains important for businesses to maintain their online presence and ensure they are bookable online. 

Wine Australia’s project with the Australian Tourism Data Warehouse (ATDW) to develop wine-related functionality is a timely investment that has brought in additional wine-related features into the content hub including wine varieties, wine making practices and wine regions.

Training sessions were recently held across Australia specific for the wine sector. Currently, getting listed in ATDW is free in each state and territory in response to COVID-19. More information about costs, accessing the training sessions and helpful guides can be found here


1. Wine regions are legally defined Geographical Indications 


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