Analysts quiz ‘foggy’ business travel data

In National Headlines

From The Australian

HOTEL analysts and real estate agents have disputed latest federal government figures claiming the business tourism market dropped nearly 10 per cent in the September quarter.

If correct, the figures contained in the latest federal government tourism report could spell bad news for hotel investors who forked out $1.44 billion buying Australian hotels in the main capital cities this year.

Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson said in a statement yesterday that overnight business trips were flat for the 12 months to September, but in the three months to September business travel had dropped 9.7 per cent.

“Since the start of 2010, overnight business travel has grown strongly,” Mr Ferguson said. “These September quarter results may indicate a stabilisation in the business travel market.”

But hotel analysts disputed the figures in the government’s National Visitor Survey released yesterday.

Hotel analyst Dean Dransfield said the figures should be treated with caution.

“There seems to be significant volatility in both forecasts and reported results from a range of government-endorsed organisations,” he said.

“We have seen a number of statistics come out in the past six months that have had very significant swings. We think there’s a range of analytical issues that are fogging the picture.”

Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels senior vice-president Peter Harper said the figures were surprising. “I know September was slightly softer (but), speaking with hotel owners, everyone is still reporting that trading markets are still robust.

“Even if we do have the odd quiet week here and there it’s important that we look at the hotel market in its entirety.”

Data showing the actual year to date suggested all markets were still trading at or above record levels, Mr Harper said.

Meanwhile, the nation’s top tourism official, Andrew McEvoy, managing director of Tourism Australia, said the softer quarterly numbers reflected broader economic sentiment and prudent spending in a quarter that historically was usually the most challenging for tourism.

“Leisure trips continue to register solid growth – with the “holiday” and “visiting friends and relations” segments both up nearly 3 per cent and 10 per cent, respectively, with even bigger increases in spending,” he said.

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