Record numbers of international tourists have flocked to our shores, and the numbers are set to soar further still as emerging Asian countries take full advantage of the summer sun and a weaker Australian dollar.
A whopping 9.2 million international arrivals have been recorded up to October 2018, an increase of more than 5 per cent on the previous year, according to Tourism Australia data.
And as the dollar nosedives to levels not seen since 2015 (US70 cents to the dollar in late December), Australia’s international terminals are flooded with tourists with cash to splash.
Australia has been in vogue with Chinese visitors for some years now, and continues to be the top tourism market in Australia with 1.3 million visitors spending $11.5 billion.
But India is also pushing hard, with 324,000 tourists spending $1.6 billion in the 12-month period, with 20 per cent growth in the year to September, making it the fastest-growing tourism market.
Despite the weak Australian dollar, visitor numbers from New Zealand, the US and the UK rose only slightly, each up about 3 per cent to 1.3 million, 736,000 and 699,000 respectively.
CommSec’s senior economist Ryan Felsman told The New Daily Australia was banking record tourism figures.
In 2008, some 400,000 Chinese tourists came to Australia compared with 1.3 million in the year to September 2018.
“The middle class in China are growing and spending more, and India’s growing middle class are coming to Australia in greater numbers,” Mr Felsman said.
“A weak Australian dollar is supportive of the tourism sector and Asia is coming and generating demand.”
Our cities and our golden soil
And it’s not just our cities foreigners are flocking to.
Tourists spent $113.4 billion in Australia last year with more travellers heading to regional areas, according to the latest International Visitor and National Visitor Survey results.
Of the 9.2 million international travellers, 2.84 million travelled to the bush, the coast and the outback.
For every tourist dollar, 43 cents is being spent in regional areas, according to Tourism Australia figures.
Mr Felsman said the influx was partly due to families visiting international students studying in Australia and travelling farther afield on expensive and luxury experiences.
“Tourism Australia has been able to focus on those markets, increase airline linkages to places like Perth, Hobart,” he said.
“These people want Australian experiences, visiting lavender farms, Kangaroo Island and Kakadu, in addition to the big cities.”
University of Technology Sydney business, management and tourism associate professor Deborah Edwards told The New Daily that tourism was rising globally, and Australia was part of the trend.
She agreed the exchange rate was “buoying things along” and tourists were more “mature” travellers coming on repeat visits and visiting new places after ticking off the big-name must-sees.
“These people are maturing international travellers that are comfortable with travelling, even if Australia is a new place,” Professor Edwards said.
Most states and territories are showing strong growth in visitor numbers, with Tasmania and the ACT leading the way.
International visitors spent almost $550 million in Tasmania – a rise of 15 per cent – and $645 million in Canberra.
Weak dollar keeps us home
Tourism Australia managing director John O’Sullivan said the weaker Australian dollar was “undoubtedly” boosting tourism and providing international visitors with more money to spend.
“But it also encourages more Australians to holiday in their backyard, as overseas destinations become more expensive,” he told The New Daily in a statement.
“And lower petrol prices are an added bonus, fuelling more traditional Aussie road trips, which so many Australian families have enjoyed over the recent festive break.”