Ash clouds blacken Aussie tourism woe

Cyclones, floods, earthquakes and now an ash-spewing volcano have come at a high price for Australia's aviation and tourism industries, which analysts say are losing tens of millions of dollars a day.

Already struggling with surging fuel costs and a mining-driven rally in the Australian dollar that has seen an exodus of holidaymakers offshore, tourism and travel operators could little afford this year's string of disasters.

The ash cloud from Chile's Puyehue volcano grounded hundreds of domestic and international flights in Australia this week, the second major disruption due to the plume.

Sydney, the nation's biggest airport, all but shut down for some 24 hours, and flights from Asia and Europe had to be diverted to Brisbane, stranding thousands of passengers and leaving airlines with a hefty bill.

"This will be having a very major effect (and) not only on the airlines," aviation analyst Neil Hansford told AFP.

"All they're going to save by not flying is the fuel, the payments for air traffic fees, some airport charges... but they can only get rid of up to 20 percent of their costs; 80 percent of their costs sit there whether they fly or not.

"The industry could be losing in excess of Aus$30 million (US$32 million) a day."

Hansford, chairman of consultancy Strategic Aviation Solutions, said the latest flight chaos would be felt particularly hard because it came mid-week, impacting business travel.

"You take taxis, then you've got to take hotels, restaurants... because this is right in the heart of the business week," he said.

Airports, which mainly profit from parking, would also see significant one-off losses from the upheaval, which affected most of the nation's major terminals, he added.

Australian flag carrier Qantas on Wednesday said the ash had cost it $21 million before this week's chaos and estimated 200,000 of its passengers had been hit in recent days - "well over 10 times as big" as the impact of last April's Icelandic eruption.

It follows $185 million in losses due to earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand, British snowstorms and local flooding and cyclones.

"There's been an event on every continent that has had an impact on Qantas earnings this year," said Qantas chief Alan Joyce.

Joyce said the airline's international arm would run at a $200 million loss this year, with "a weaker result expected next year" as historically high fuel prices hit and competition heated up from Asia and the Middle East.

The "Flying Kangaroo" cancelled aircraft orders and trimmed its growth targets last week, citing slow domestic conditions, just months after announcing it would slash capacity and jobs in a bid to cut costs.

John Lee, head of the Tourism and Transport Forum, said the Chilean ash plume was the biggest disruption to Australian aviation since a prolonged pilots' strike in 1989.

"We anticipate the total impact to the tourism industry will be something over $10 million - it could be as high as $13 million or $14 million but it is probably around $11.5 million per day," he said.

Lee said it had been a horror year for the tourism and travel sector, with the relentless natural disasters rattling confidence.

"The start of the year it was floods, it was Cyclone Yasi ... our biggest inbound market New Zealand impacted by earthquake in Christchurch, then the third event with the tsunami in Japan - again one of our top five inbound markets," he said.

"We seem to have constant shock syndrome happening in the tourism industry at the moment."

Australia's dollar, currently trading around US$1.06, contributed to a 29 percent surge in outbound travel in April compared with the same period last year, with 1.4 million more people leaving than arriving in the past 12 months.

International tourists were also spending 20 percent less than two years ago, Lee said, with economic problems in top markets Britain and the United States and disasters befalling Japan and New Zealand.

ajc/dan

 

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
News
A poster by Durham Constabulary
news
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: Events Coordinator / Junior Events Planner

    £24K + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Events Coordinator ...

    Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: Chief Executive Officer

    Salary 42,000: Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: The CEO is responsible ...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Day In a Page

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine