Once a cheap and cheerful paradise for thrifty backpackers, today Australia boasts impressive appeal as a luxury travel destination. As the Aussie dollar plummets, affluent tourists from China are heading down under, spending billions in a nation that boasts exceptional living standards. “There is no doubt that the Aussie dollar dipping below $00.70 is aiding an explosion in luxury services catering to Chinese tourists,” says Phil Ruthven, director of market research organisation IBISWorld. Ruthven adds that as this important corner of the tourism market grows at a rate of knots, so too will the nation’s luxury retail sector, which is currently out of step with brand capitals. But whether this influx can prop up Australia’s economy as its resources boom begins to wane is a different story. Lessons from Australia’s recent Japanese tourism collapse should inspire the country to diversify its offerings and not forget about those more unkempt holidaymakers.
Could a fresh lick of paint entice tourists to Saudi? The kingdom’s flag carrier, Saudi Arabian Airlines, has revealed a new look for its fleet. Images of the country’s largely unvisited landmarks are painted on to the fuselage, from rock-cut tombs to mud-brick forts. With oil prices in the doldrums and a desperate need to put more young people into work, Saudi Arabia may be again flirting with the idea of relaxing its rigid entry rules for tourists. “The political elite will have to do a lot more to change Saudi Arabia if they want to embrace non-pilgrim traffic in a manner of, for example, the UAE,” says Saj Ahmad of StrategicAero Research. “It’s hard to see this new paint scheme as anything but a fad.”
It’s been a tricky time for some of the US’s iconic brands. J Crew’s sales woes have received widespread attention; likewise Gap’s decision to shutter 175 stores across North America in a bid to reverse its fortunes. Which is why analysts are watching Monday’s Labor Day holiday with particular interest. Apart from barbecuing on public holidays (during warmer months, anyway), Americans like to hit the shops. For Lindsey Rupp, a consumer reporter at Bloomberg, Monday “signals the end of the back-to-school shopping season, seen by many as a harbinger for spending during the all-important holiday season”. While spending won’t match Christmas, it could provide a much-needed confidence boost to shops. Petrol prices are set to be at their lowest Labor Day prices since 2004, meaning it’s both cheaper for people to travel to consumer centres and they’ll have more money in their pockets. Whether this will reverse the onward march of online shopping dominance, however, remains to be seen.
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