Andrew McKellar interview with Haidi Stroud-Watts and Kathleen Hays, Bloomberg Daybreak Australia.

22 Feb 2022 |

Event: Andrew McKellar interview with Haidi Stroud-Watts and Kathleen Hays, Bloomberg Daybreak Australia.

Speakers: Haidi Stroud-Watts, host Bloomberg Daybreak Australia; Kathleen Hays, Bloomberg Global Economics and Policy Editor, Andrew McKellar, chief executive Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Date: 22 February 2022.

Topics: International border reopening, international tourism, Western Australia reopening, Tourism Australia funding, business travellers, business events.



Haidi Stroud-Watts, host Bloomberg Daybreak Australia: Our next guest oversees Australia’s largest business network, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, CEO Andrew McKellar joins us now, and you can see some of the big names that are amongst your network and membership. Obviously, there’s a lot of jubilance, a lot of relief, but meaningfully, how long is it going to take for some of these businesses to see a return to something akin to pre-pandemic normality?

Andrew McKellar, chief executive Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry: Look indeed, Haidi. Yesterday’s move was a very welcome one. It was the first step, but it is a long road ahead. We can’t expect that activity will just spring back automatically, or that we will get back to having 9 million plus international visitors coming to Australia in the next 12 months. It’s going to take some investment. We will have to get back out and spend extra dollars as a nation, convincing the world that we are back open for business. We’ve got to put aside this image of ‘Fortress Australia’. I think there’s going to be some work to do. We will have to undertake some additional investment to achieve that and we’re urging the Federal Government to look at that in the context of the Federal Budget that will be announced later in March.

Haidi: And at the same time, we’re looking ahead to WA reopening their borders too, after being just such a strong holdout, right, from that. Has the nature of doing business changed in terms of deal making? Do you still expect to see a revival of business travel, of doing due diligence in person, to holding negotiations in person after the past two, three years?

Andrew: Look, I think many businesses, of course, have learned a lot more about doing business virtually, online, digitally. I think that’s been certainly one of the features of the past two years. We were forced to learn very quickly for many of us in that space. But look, I am confident that there will be a bounce back to face-to-face business. I think people enjoy that. It is a very productive way to do business. So, I have no doubt that there will be some sort of mix. I’m sure that we won’t change everything that we’ve done in the past two years, but people overwhelmingly, want to get back to a much more normal operating environment and I expect that will become the main focus again, very quickly.

Kathleen Hays, Bloomberg Global Economics and Policy Editor: Australia, what you say needs to, has a huge task ahead to repair its international reputation. I read that, Andrew, I thought, gee, I think a lot of people are thinking, great, Australia’s open. They had to be shut down for a long time. If anything, I think there’s a certain amount of sympathy, and certainly affection, for Australia from people who have visited before, or people who, it’s on their bucket list.

Andrew: Sure. Well, it’s very welcome news and I’m very pleased to hear you say it, but look, I think we have been out of a number of people’s minds for the past two years. The pandemic impacts globally waning, they’re not gone, but they are waning and many markets are now open for business. We’ve got intense international competition. There are markets out there that are competing for our tourist dollar, and I think we’ve got to get out there and remind people of the great things that we’ve got here, the great experiences, the great sites and opportunities that we’ve got. So I’m sure that if we do that, then people will be keen to come back. It won’t happen overnight, but we do project it we’ll take at least 12 months to two years probably to build back to the former strength. But look, it’s encouraging to hear your comments and I hope you’re right.

Kathleen: Well, how important is it? You’re saying that increasing Tourism Australia’s funding up to $240 million will be essential to rebuilding this international image. Is the Government on board with this? And again, how do you pick this figure? What is it needed to do?

Andrew: Well, they have about $160 million as I understand it, in place currently. We think that’s going to need to increase and there’s a couple of components to that. So, a lot of it is marketing traditional established markets. There are some new markets that we will also want to focus on. Some of our traditional markets, including China, remain more difficult at the moment so we’ve got to break some new ground and that’s part of the challenge. The other area that we can’t forget about and that’s business events, so conferences, major meetings, these sorts of things. We’ve got to get back out there and start bidding for those. Of course, there’s a time lag in that process where those major conferences and events determine the venue, and they like to look at what is competitive value. So, we’ve got to get back into that space and remind those conference organisers, all of the advantages that Australia has as a destination for those sorts of things.

Haidi: Andrew, great to have you with us. Andrew McKellar, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO joining us from Canberra.

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