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Can't get a break: How COVID has robbed Qlders of 4.7 million holidays


The huge toll the pandemic has inflicted on the tourism sector and the lives of Queenslanders has been detailed in a study which found COVID-19 had deprived the state’s residents of almost 4.7 million holidays.

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.The University of Queensland study said the losses included 2.4 million domestic vacations and 2.2 million international trips, but there were also significant impacts on mental health.

It follows a recent report from Tourism Research Australia which found that Queensland’s tourism industry had lost as much as $13 billion because of travel restrictions. That was effectively half the normal income for the sector in 2019.

UQ Business School’s Professor Bob McKercher said the lost holidays had several serious repercussions for those involved.

“More than half of the people we talked to identified the mental health benefits of escape – recharging one’s batteries, simply having a break from day-to-day lives, or being able to spend time with family and friends – as the greatest benefit of travel,” McKercher said

He said the responses from people were that the planned holidays were to relieve a stressful lifestyle and that the simple act of being a tourist and seeing new things fought off depressive episodes.

McKercher and colleagues Dr Karen Hughes and Dr Mucha Mkono surveyed more than 800 Queensland residents over the age of 25 during May and early June this year.

Participants were asked about their travel patterns during 2019, 2020 and so far in 2021; how many trips were cancelled, postponed or are unlikely to be taken in anticipation of a COVID lockdown.

“We found domestically, some 800,000 trips within Queensland were lost thanks to the pandemic,”  McKercher said.

“Another 1.7 million trips elsewhere in the country were either cancelled or postponed with little chance of being taken.”

The research revealed Asian destinations suffered the most internationally, with some 750,000 trips by Queenslanders to those destinations put on hold, followed by half a million visits to Europe. 

New Zealand was also affected with 330,000 trips cancelled, with 75 per cent of people planning holidays there in recent times forced to change their plans due to COVID-19.

McKercher said the study showed it was vital for both people’s emotional well-being and economic reasons to get back to the new normal as soon as possible.

“Our results show just how important the ‘soft’ benefits of tourism are to individuals, and in fact, the personal benefits of travel may equal and possibly outweigh the economic benefits.”

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