Coronavirus impact on tourism 'minimal', but lobster in dire straits

BUY LOCAL: The industry is urging Tasmanians and Tasmanian restaurants to buy Tasmanian seafood as the industry grapples with China clopsing its imports. Picture: Phillip Biggs
BUY LOCAL: The industry is urging Tasmanians and Tasmanian restaurants to buy Tasmanian seafood as the industry grapples with China clopsing its imports. Picture: Phillip Biggs

The coronavirus will have a "relatively small" impact on the Tasmanian tourism industry, with part of China in quarantine and movement in and out discouraged.

Tourism Industry Council of Tasmania chief executive Luke Martin said the Australian tourism industry would "inevitably" be hit, but that Tasmania would be protected by its smaller share of Chinese visitors.

"I'm sure there will be examples of people's travel patterns being affected, but it would be small numbers so far," he said.

"Only about three per cent of our tourism market is from mainland china. So while it's an important market, it's not a huge part of our overall market. I think there's a perception that it's a lot bigger than it actually is."

Meanwhile, more forms of Tasmanian seafood could be affected if an export shutdown to China continues.

Lobster and abalone are the first casualties because they are live produce, while frozen or packaged seafood is able to be stored until the virus is contained, Australian Southern Rock Lobster Exporters Association managing director Michael Blake said.

"[China] hasn't come out and said that they wont buy anything, but they are wanting to stop people from going out and eating and socialising in any restaurant," he said.

After stocking up on lobster throughout the quota season expecting to export to China, many commercial fishers are operating a loss, Lobster Shack co-owner Marcus Walkem said.

"Everyone's getting stocked up, and then all of a sudden it just crashed," he said.

"A lot of people are potentially going to lose money, and it may be difficult for them to remain [in the industry]. So it is a dire season."

The Lobster Shack, in Bicheno, has enough stock in tanks for at least two months, but could be affected beyond that if the coronavirus is not contained and the industry does not return to normal.

Mr Blake and Mr Walkem both said the best way to support the industry is for people and restaurants to buy Tasmanian seafood.

Tasmania also exports fruit to China, particularly cherries.

However, growers have been minimally affected because they had already exported the bulk of their stock, and the season for the year is finishing, the Tasmanian Fruit Growers Association said.

The federal government will work with the lobster industry to develop new international markets if the export shutdown continues, senator Jonathon Duniam said.

Fast facts

  • The coronavirus outbreak in China is a new strain of a long-existing virus, first identified in December in the Wuhan region.
  • SARS, which killed about 800 people in 2002, was a strain of coronavirus. The common cold is also a strain of coronavirus.
  • At the time of writing there were 81 deaths from coronavirus since January 9, all in China.
  • There have been five confirmed cases of coronavirus in Australia.
This story Coronavirus impact on tourism 'minimal', but lobster in dire straits first appeared on The Examiner.