Tourists are arriving in droves and spending big when visiting the lucky country, but what are they buying is anyone’s guess.
Tourism Research Australia’s International Visitor Survey for the 2016 calendar year shows spending by international visitors has toppled an unprecedented $39.1 billion last year.
“Spending by international visitors to Australia has now grown by more than 35% in the last three years – supporting Australian jobs and the broader Australian economy,” Steven Ciobo, MP, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment said upon the release of the figures.
Twelve key source markets saw double digit growth in visitor numbers in 2016, with the fastest growing markets being dominated by Asian nations of Taiwan (up 26 per cent), Japan (up 24 per cent), Korea (up 24 per cent), China (up 17 per cent).
“While our traditional inbound tourism markets remain strong, we now see a much broader engagement with newer markets like Malaysia, India and Korea which are showing notable growth,” ATEC Managing Director, Peter Shelley said.
“These IVS figures clearly show that while these new markets may be coming off a low base, countries like India and Malaysia show remarkable promise.”
Noticeably, the Chinese free independent travellers (FITs) has evolved, with the share of holiday visitors not on group tours growing to 45 per cent, compared to 28 per cent in 2010.
“The China market continues to rank high across all metrics for the December quarter with visitor numbers up 9% and visitor nights up 33%. In this, the China Australia Year of Tourism, China is still registering impressive growth off what is now a large base,” Shelley said.
Meanwhile, travellers from the United States was up 16 per cent and backpackers visiting Australia grew by eight per cent during last year. Brexit and a lower pound has been attributed to the softening from the UK market
“On the other hand, strong growth in the US market sees it competing with the UK market for third largest market to Australia behind New Zealand and China, a very welcome trend,” Shelley said.
Americans are also reportedly travelling to regional markets such as the Sunshine Coast, which enjoyed double-digit growth year on year.
Meanwhile a resurgence in the Japanese market, which was worth $2.8 billion in the year 2000, is back on track, with spending by Japanese tourists growing 29 per cent last year to reach $1.7 billion, the highest level in a decade. Aviation capacity between Japan and Australia has grown 20 per cent in the last year.
Ciobo noted the Turnbull Government is supporting further growth in the Australian tourism industry, including by: investing a record $639 million in Tourism Australia to market Australia abroad; negotiating the world’s best aviation access agreements; and introducing visitor visa improvements.
“Australia has long been a bucket list destination for our traditional markets and this hasn’t changed, but what we can also see a sensitivity to political and economic changes where traveller decisions are clearly impacted by affordability – so factors such as visa fees are real and relevant,” Shelley said.
“International travel is a variable marketplace which means that our Australian tourism exporters need to stay on their toes and continue to explore and engage with new opportunities in order to maintain the current growth trajectory.”