Australia's big ticket, world-class tourist attractions may be priceless, but getting to see them can cost the Earth. So when the Global Financial Crisis hit, one of the first sectors to feel the effects was the $90 billion tourism industry.
Nobody will be celebrating the end of 2009 more, more heartily than the Australian tourism industry tomorrow night.
International tourist numbers dropped a 0.5% this year. It would've been much worse if not for a global airline price war and surprisingly strong tourism out of the United States and China. Next year, growth is predicted of about 4.5%.
It's certainly not double digit. It's a... it's a positive recovery, but certainly not a... we're not back to boom times - as yet at least.
Demographer Bernard Salt is the chairman of Tourism Australia's forecasting committee. It combines things like forward airline bookings, visa applications and arrival figures to come up with its predictions. Bernard Salt says short-term visits, particularly from China, indicate a growing commercial relationship.
This is not so much Chinese people coming out to go to the Gold Coast. This is very much business people coming out for resources deals, manufacturing deals. All sorts of relationships that are now forming and forging between Australia and China is really fuelling this very strong traffic between the two countries.
Attacks this year against Indian students in Melbourne and Sydney are being blamed for a projected 20% drop in students visiting Australia to study for a year or less. That'd cost this country $78 million next year. Student representatives say they thought the figures were going to be much worse.
It's surprising that the drop is only 20%. But we have to understand that the marketing that Australia has done - there were eight trips. And I think the Prime Minister's trip was fairly successful.
As Prime Minister of Australia, I am deeply disturbed and disgusted by attacks of violence against any foreign students studying in our country as our guests.
There were several visits to India this year by senior Australian politicians, but the students say Kevin Rudd's public commitment in the Indian media to take responsibility for what was happening softened the anger.
He was one person who went out to India and has stood up to a billion people and told them that 'I am ultimately responsible... for, you know, everyone's safety in Australia. Now, I may not have the full authority individually to do something, but I am responsible.' And I think that has a huge impact. So that's why we are seeing that the trend is about 20%.
We're going to need a year and a half of good times, of good figures, of sustained growth, for Australian tourism businesses to be profitable and to get out of the difficulties that they find themselves at the moment.
But if you look closely, the news isn't all bad, particularly for operators catering for tourists who don't want to open their purses too far or too often.
We're not feeling it here because we're at the, sort of, lower end of the tourism spectrum. So we get a lot of the budget travellers and a lot of the family travellers that can't afford that higher-end holiday away.
This picturesque caravan park, the closest to Sydney's central business district, is enjoying boom times.
What we're finding is that it tends to be our demographic is shifting to family groups and more professional people, particularly from the eastern suburbs of Sydney where, although they're affluent, they're looking at their money, they're looking at the mortgage rates that they're paying and they're looking at their expenditures.
The park is so popular, campervans line the road outside. At the other end of the spectrum, the Australian Tourism Export Council says it's the top end of the market which is feeling the pinch worst. But it says tourism operators across the board are hoping for a break of their own.
We've fought so hard over the last year. We've reduced our profits, sometimes down to zero, just to keep people ticking through the gates, and we're looking forward to these figures becoming true, because nobody deserves a strong year more than the Australian tourism industry.