Cost-of-living laid bare, as Travel Agents (finally) bounce back

25 May 2022

Bankwest’s latest Spend Trends analysis has helped paint a clearer picture of the daily impacts of cost-of-living pressures on Western Australians, with transaction values spiking across several sectors despite volumes falling.

And the data has also shown that for the first time since the global pandemic began, Travel Agents have not only returned to – but exceeded – pre-COVID turnover levels in value and volume, signalling the industry’s recovery.

Bankwest’s analysis looked at WA customer credit and debit transactions for April, comparing them year-on-year to provide insights into the community’s response to changing economic, pandemic, and travel conditions.

The data showed Western Australians responded to the rising cost-of-living by reining in spending in discretionary areas, with transaction volumes falling year-on-year in sectors such as electrical appliance retailers (-31%).

However, instead of following the declining trend of transaction volumes, the value of customer transactions rose, indicating Western Australians were outlaying more than they did at the same time last year, despite buying less.

That swing was present in every significant sector, including those that would be considered essential, with transaction values outpacing volumes in food stores by seven per cent, validating reports of rising grocery bills.

It was a similar story for Pharmacies, with volume of transactions understandably rising by six per cent compared to the same time in 2021, but the value of those transactions increasing by 16 per cent.

The analysis also highlighted the true cost being borne by Western Australians at the bowser, with the volume of transactions at service stations falling by one per cent year-on-year but surging in value by 21 per cent.

Rising fuel prices also flowed into other sectors, with the volume of transactions in Other Transport – which includes taxis, ride shares, public transport, and parking – falling by six per cent, but the value rising by 10 per cent.

However, the data also revealed positive news for the long-suffering travel industry, with transaction volumes for Travel Agents exceeding pre-COVID levels (Apr-22 v Apr-19) by 13 per cent, and their value almost identical.

The recovery came off the back of an April spending-spree, with Travel Agents transaction volumes up 82 per cent year-on-year, and values more than tripling (233%), with similar growth experienced by Airlines (85% and 159%).

Bankwest Chief Customer Officer Paul Vivian said: “This data confirms the community concerns being voiced around cost-of-living pressures and highlights some of the areas putting pressure on Western Australians.

“It’s clear Western Australians are attempting to rein in their spending, which we can see from either the stable or declining volumes of transactions year-on-year, yet they’re being asked to pay more than they did in 2021.

“The data is showing multiple price pain points for customers, with increasing costs at the supermarket, the bowser, when traveling by ride share or catching public transport, and even at department stores and pharmacies.

“We believe challenging economic conditions may be here to stay for a while, so we encourage all customers to ensure they are in the best possible financial position and to contact us as soon as possible if they require support.

“However, it’s a far more positive story for travel agents, as they finally returned to pre-COVID turnover levels, but it’s important to remember how decimated they were, and their recovery will require sustained levels of spend.”

Overall transaction change year-on-year April 2021 v April 2022

  Volume (%)
Value (%)
2021 V 2022
+3 +12

Cost-of-living focus

Top sectors by difference between transaction volume and value

  Year-on-year volume (%)
Year-on-year value (%) Difference (%)
Travel agencies
+82 +233
Airlines +85 +159 +74
Electrical appliance retailers -31 +3 +34
Service stations -1 +20 +21
Other transport -6 +10 +16
Recreation +12 +26 +14
Clothing stores -1 +12 +13
Pharmacies +6 +16 +10
Discount stores -1 +8 +9
Restaurants and bars
+3 +12 +9
Hardware stores +2 +11 +9
Interior furnishings -3 +5 +8
Sports and toy stores -2 +4 +7
Food stores and warehouses +2 +9 +7

Top 5 sectors by

Biggest growth in volume
Apr 2021 v Apr 2022

  Smallest growth in volume
Apr 2021 v Apr 2022
  Biggest growth in value
Apr 2021 v Apr 2022
  Smallest growth in volume
Apr 2021 v Apr 2022
Airlines +85 Electrical appliance retailers
-31 Travel agencies
+233 Repair shops
Travel agencies
+82 Repair shops
-7 Airlines
+159 Mail orders
Quasi cash
+53 Other transport
-6 Quasi cash
+44 Education
+15 Interior furnishings
-3 Recreation
+26 Professional services
Department stores
+15 Sports and toy stores
-2 Service stations
+20 Electrical appliance retailers

Travel agencies – road to recovery

Pandemic years v pre-pandemic

  Apr 2020 V Apr 2019
Apr 2020 V Apr 2019
Apr 2022 v Apr 2019
Transaction value
-70 0
Transaction volume -85 -41 +13

Sector examples

Sector Examples
Airlines Self-explanatory
Auto rental Self-explanatory (general and commercial)
Clothing stores Single-brand stores, as opposed to multi-brand department Store retailers
Department stores Large department stores and chains, not including discount department stores
Discount stores Discount department stores and budget lifestyle and homeware retailers
Electrical appliance Whitegoods retailers, home entertainment stores, mobile and computing device outlets, computer games
Food stores/Warehouses Includes grocery stores, as well as wholesale food distribution warehouses
Hardware Hardware retailers and chains, landscaping specialists, home DIY retailers
Hotels/Motels Self-explanatory
Other retail Online marketplaces, online arms of bricks-and-mortar retailers, discount department stores, liquor stores
Other services Courier services, public administration, newspaper subscriptions, roadside assistance companies
Other transport Ride sharing companies, taxis, private and public paid parking
Pharmacies Self-explanatory
Professional services All types of insurance, waste disposal services
Quasi cash Casino and gambling activities
Repair shops Cobblers, tailors, electrical appliance repairs, watchmakers, mobile phone repairs
Restaurants/Bars Self-explanatory
Service stations Self-explanatory
Sporting/Toy stores Non-digital game retailers, outdoor recreation stores, sporting goods, apparel and footwear outlets
Travel agencies Self-explanatory (online and bricks-and-mortar)
Utilities Typical utility services, streaming services
Vehicles Automotive dealerships, automotive and car care accessory retailers, repairs and servicing

About Bankwest
Bankwest’s vision is to deliver brilliant customer experiences every day and our purpose is to build a brighter future for all. Bankwest provides personal and business banking solutions for customers across Australia. Our customers enjoy access to an extensive network of branches and business centres, direct and third-party distribution channels, agencies and electronic banking facilities, as well as 24-hour banking on the telephone, internet and app. Bankwest, a division of Commonwealth Bank of Australia ABN 48 123 123 124 AFSL/Australian credit license 234945.

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