Australian tourists are big spenders globally on experiences and nightlife, Mastercard report finds

Australian tourists are big spenders globally on experiences and nightlife, Mastercard report finds
Edited by Travel Weekly


    Aussies are spending one of every five dollars, or 19 per cent, on experiences and nightlife – significantly higher than the global average of 12 per cent, according to the Mastercard Economics Institute report on travel in 2024.

    Australia is also the 7th top destination for travel globally in the past year while in Australia and New Zealand, overseas visitors are staying for an average of 5.4 days, an increase of 0.6 days compared to 2019

    When it comes to eating out, Australia now enjoys burgeoning fine dining scenes, leading to premium dining outperformance compared to casual dining, which remains dominant elsewhere. In Australia, tourism spending on fine dining has been roughly 48.7 per cent higher than the same time last year.

    Shopping for luxury apparel is also high on the hitlist, roughly 40.6 per cent up this year, compared to 2023,

    In global trends, Japan welcomed 3,081,600 visitors from abroad in March 2024 – the highest level ever – even before the peak travel season began. Meanwhile, Munich ranked as the No.1 2024 summer destination – in terms of share gain in flight bookings – due to its hosting of the UEFA Euro 2024 football championship in June.

    APAC destinations comprise half the top 10 

    APAC destinations are trending in a big way, comprising half of the top 10 hot spots that have demonstrated the greatest momentum among travellers. Overall, the global travel sector is breaking boundaries in 2024 as consumer spending on tourism remains robust and passenger traffic soars, according to the report.

    That includes Australians who are top spenders when it comes to splurging on experience and nightlife overseas. Japan is a particular target for those travellers, given the weak Yen. Australian has posted a strong recovery for outbound tourists who are heading for Fiji, Vietnam, India as well as Japan.

    Leisure for longer

    In APAC (excluding ANZ) in 2024, tourists are also extending their trips by an average of 1.2 days to a total duration of 7.4 days, motivated by the affordability of destinations, warm weather, and favorable exchange rates. This compares to the 2019 average of 6.1 days per trip.

    In Australia and New Zealand, overseas visitors are staying for an average of 5.4 days, an increase of 0.6 days compared to 2019.

    The APAC destinations with the longest increase in trip duration between 2019-2024 are India (+2 days), Vietnam (+2 days), Indonesia (+1.9 days), and Japan (+1.4 days), largely due to their lower growth in hotel prices during this period compared to other markets. Longer stays generally translate to more spend per trip too, which benefits local economies.

    Thrillseekers want experiences and nightlife

    Consumers globally continue to prioritise experiences over material goods. This is playing out in the travel sector as spending on experiences and nightlife totals 12 per cent of tourism sales – the highest point in at least five years, with Aussies on top at 19 per cent. Meanwhile, retail shopping is recovering at a slower pace.

    Tourists from the Chinese Mainland are also increasingly seeking out experiences, spending 10 per cent on this category in 2024, up from seven per cent in 2023.

    What the report found globally

    Released today (Thursday, 16 May), the MEI’s fifth annual report, Travel Trends 2024: Breaking Boundaries provides comprehensive insights into the evolving landscape of the travel industry across 74 markets, including 131 in the Asia Pacific region (APAC).

    Despite fluctuating exchange rates and varying levels of affordability, travel is booming, with nine out of the last 10 record-setting spending days in the global cruise and airline industries occurring this year (2). Looking ahead, the MEI anticipates this momentum will continue as consumers around the world prioritise meaningful experiences and allocate more of their budgets to travel.

    Drawing on a unique analysis of aggregated and anonymised Mastercard transaction data, including Mastercard SpendingPulse and third-party data sources, the report takes a deep dive into key tourism trends for 2024 and beyond. Here in the Asia Pacific region, a few themes stand out.

    That includes APAC destinations trending in a big way, comprising half of the top 10 hot spots that have demonstrated the greatest momentum among travellers. This is measured and ranked by the change in share of tourism transactions over the past 12 months ending March 2024.

    Japan emerged as the No.1 trending destination worldwide (growing 0.9 per cent vs Ireland at 0.4 per cent), as it welcomed 3,081,600 visitors from abroad in March 2024 – the highest level ever – even before the peak travel season begins.

    Driven by a weak yen (the lowest since 1990), Japan’s favourable exchange rate is expected to help it remain the clear tourism frontrunner throughout 2024, benefitting Japanese businesses catering to tourists and the local economy overall.

    APAC passenger traffic is rebounding, particularly for shorter, intra-regional trips. For example, this summer’s top destinations for travellers from Singapore include Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, and Perth.

    Thailand tourism is expected to fully recover in 2024, according to MEI, with total visitor arrivals now only seven per cent below 2019, pre-pandemic levels. Notably, inbound flight traffic from South Asia and the ASEAN region is nearly 20 per cent above 2019 levels.

    “Consumers in the Asia Pacific region have an intense desire and willingness to travel and are becoming increasingly savvy to ensure they get the best value and unforgettable experiences from their trips,” said David Mann, chief economist, Asia Pacific, Mastercard.

    “For tourism authorities, retailers, the hospitality and F&B sectors, the bottom line is that costs matter. In today’s economy, foreign exchange rates and spending power have become vital components in driving a traveler’s assessment of value when they are making their plans. This suggests that businesses targeting tourism dollars need to review their current strategies, and shift them if necessary, to maintain their appeal to travellers.”

    Summer holiday hot spots

    While Japan was the top trending destination during the last 12 months, looking ahead, Munich ranks as the No.1 summer destination (in terms of share gain in flight bookings) due to its hosting of the UEFA Euro 2024 football championship in June.

    Tokyo comes in a close second while Bali (No.6) and Bangkok (No.7) are also among the top 10 cities where demand is gaining momentum in the next three months.

    Chinese Mainland outbound travel continues to recover

    The Chinese mainland’s travel dynamic has shifted, as more Chinese tourists prioritise domestic trips over international ones.

    The Chinese mainland’s domestic tourism story is a positive one, as air passenger traffic has fully normalised and even exceeded 2019 levels, benefiting local businesses.

    Meanwhile, international tourism traffic leaving the Chinese Mainland continues to recover and is now at 80.3 per cent of 2019 levels.

    Additional upside growth is expected in 2024, supported by visa exemptions in APAC and beyond, as well as an increase in international flight capacity, benefiting destinations such as Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.

    More Indians are travelling than ever before

    Strengthened by a burgeoning middle class, additional route capacity, and a strong desire to travel, 2024 marks the year when more Indians are traveling internationally than at any time in history.

    In the first three months of 2024, 97 million passengers traveled through Indian airports. Just 10 years ago, the same figure would have taken a whole year to achieve.

    Domestic passenger traffic is up 21 per cent compared to 2019 levels while international passenger traffic is up 4 per cent, as of March 2024.

    Indian travellers to key markets are up significantly in 2024 compared to 2019: 53 per cent increase in visitors to Japan, 248 per cent increase to Vietnam, 59 per cent increase to the United States (notable as total overseas arrivals to the U.S. are still 7 per cent below 2019 levels, largely due to the strong USD).

    Casual trumps luxury for fashion and food 

    Tourists today prefer laid-back vibes, except in spots where luxury retail and fine dining provide exceptional value for money.

    Notably, luxury fashion sales soared YoY in the year ending March 2024 in Japan (152 per cent) and Hong Kong SAR (208 per cent), despite casual fashion still leading the pack in most places.

    Hong Kong SAR’s surge is partly attributed to its late reopening in 2023, whereas Japan’s boom stems from a weak yen and robust inbound tourism.

    Australia, India, and Thailand now enjoy burgeoning fine dining scenes, leading to premium dining outperformance compared to casual dining, which remains dominant elsewhere.

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