Tourists love local during COVID-19


By @hey_paolo

COVID-19 is inspiring travellers to explore their own backyards.

Travel restrictions due to COVID-19 have forced people to evaluate travelling this year, and instead look to exploring their own backyards.

Australian tourism was already in dire straits due to the summer bushfire catastrophe, but the arrival of COVID-19 tightened the grip.

However, domestic tourism could help alongside a $1 billion tourism fund boost with the government’s stimulus package.

Despite this, Flight Centre CEO Graham Turner told the ABC the stimulus money can only go so far, and the focus instead needs to be on changing travellers’ attitudes to COVID-19.

“Some sort of stimulus may help domestically in travel and tourism a little bit but, in the end, it’s about the world getting back to normal,” he said.

Wotif Group managing director Daniel Finch spoke to the Guardian about how searches for regional areas on Wotif were booming.

“People, after being locked indoors for so long, are looking for something more rural, regional and peaceful – not cities,” he said.

People want to experience “authentic country service and hospitality”, he said, explaining how people are booking trips in locations two to five hours’ drive from their homes, for anywhere from two to five nights.

“Our data is showing people are booking multi-destination road trips, spending two or three nights in one place then moving on to the next destination,” Mr Finch said.

Restrictions have slowly eased since mid-September as virus case numbers continue dropping, although a current outbreak in South Australia has caused other states to slam their borders shut .

However, with that state having just come out of a shorter than expected lockdown period domestic travel is back on the cards, although interstate travel may still require a compulsory two-week quarantine period for South Australian travellers for at least the time being.

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian encouraged NSW residents to holiday locally, after announcing coronavirus travel restrictions were to be scrapped in her state from June 1.

“Please take extra care in planning ahead, booking online, and making sure you keep away from large crowds, and protect your friends and your family as you are holidaying,” the Premier said to the ABC.

“We want people to enjoy themselves, to feel free, but nothing we do is the same during a pandemic.

“You need to book ahead, think about opportunities to enjoy the environment in a different way, but please make sure you’re safe.”

Also looking locally is one such holidaymaker, Paolo Avis, creator of Boring Adelaide, a satirical series on his blog, dedicated to displaying all South Australia has to offer.

Mr Avis has lived in South Australia for a year, with quarterly trips to Singapore for his work, but border closures forced him to be “stuck” in South Australia this year.

“I frequently travel once a quarter back to Singapore and Asia, but with COVID-19, I had to do just part time work for them and [have been] working from home full time since February,” he said.

It was during a phone call with his Aunt Vicky in Sydney when he was inspired to his series on the inspiring people, places and businesses inside South Australia through travelling the state.

“She started asking me…‘How’s Adelaide, are you well there, spend Christmas here in Sydney because it will be more exciting, there’s nothing to do in Adelaide’,” Paolo said.

“She thought that Adelaide has always been provincial. So she doesn’t have any inkling on what Adelaide has to offer.”

The series follows Paolo as he visits the many wineries, restaurants, and regions in South Australia.

“I feel that Adelaide is more of an acquired taste. I’m loving it, like living here since last year, exploring every part of the state.

“I’m here in South Australia, I’m an immigrant, and I’m seeing South Australia from a fresh point of view.

“So I thought I’d show the world and the Aunt Vickys of the world that there’s a lot of things you can see and find here in South Australia.”