Tourism plunge for Australia: report

Australia could be short on overseas visitors for at least the next two years, impacting severely on destinations that rely solely on international guests.

- Tough year in tourism
- Financial crisis hits
- $500m fall in revenue

The number of visitors is forecast to fall from 5.56 million to 5.33 million, with next year shaping as the industry's worst since 1989, media reports say.

The Tourism Forecasting Committee predicts international numbers will recover by 2010, but other experts warn the pain may continue well into 2010.

(Photos: Tourism Australia's new campaign)

"Unless we see a huge pick-up in the global economy to the later half of 2009 into 2010, then that year could be looking just as bleak," the executive director of the Tourism and Transport Forum, Olivia Wirth, told ABC Radio on Tuesday.

It's too early to call at this stage," she said.

With destinations such as Cairns and Uluru predominantly visited by international guests, some people might lose their jobs and businesses might close, Ms Wirth said.

Other setbacks for Australia's tourism industry include shark attacks and shark sightings.

Beachgoers have reportedly been nervous since a 51-year old man was believed to have been taken by a shark on Saturday in Western Australia.

"There's quite a bit of hysteria with that poor man being taken," a senior Queensland lifeguard told ABC Radio.

"At the moment I think every shadow, every dolphin, every stick in the water can be taken for a shark.

"It can get a little bit the better of you.

"People do see things that perhaps aren't there sometimes."

At Stradbroke Island, off Queensland's Gold Coast, several popular beaches have been closed because of shark sightings.